Precious Objects as Materia Medica

Cabinet of Curiosities | 24th September 2017

In the Secrets of Maister Alexis, translated into English by William Warde in 1558 we find on folio 69 (recto) a recipe for a distilled water which "is very good to make white and to beautifie the flesh, and to take away the wrinckles of the face". It concludes with the confident words “A thinge proved”.

Polyp Photo

Polyps: A Real Life Hydra in Miniature

Cabinet of Curiosities | 24th September 2017

Previously, I wrote a blog about the reintroduction of Rhinoplasty to European surgery in the early 19th century by Joseph Constantine Carpue. The idea of transplanting tissue had been neglected for such a long time in Europe, and I wanted to try to explore why that might be in that blog, as well as discuss Carpue’s achievement. However, while I was researching it, I came across many interesting tangents about transplantation and ideas about regeneration in history. Due to space, I didn’t elaborate then, but I wanted to come back to some of the subjects I touched on and give them their own space – the subjects of this blog, polyps, are one of those tangents.


Review: Quacks and Anaesthesia

Cabinet of Curiosities | 24th September 2017

Set in a time of change for medicine, Quacks also embraces the introduction of pain relief. Quacks is treating anaesthesia for effect, but there are also kernels of historic truth in this comedy.


Seeing is Believing: Spiritualism in the Victorian Era-Part 4

Cabinet of Curiosities | 26th January 2017

The Society of Psychical Research was one of a number of organisations established in Britain in the latter part of the nineteenth century. It was founded in 1882 by a group of Cambridge philosophers and scientists after a meeting of the British National Association of Spiritualists. Their aim was to investigate scientifically, without prejudice, those capabilities of man that appear to be inexplicable.

Victorian English Seance 007

Seeing is Believing: Spiritualism in the Victorian Era-Part 3

Cabinet of Curiosities | 26th January 2017

In the dawn of modern spiritualism the general means of communication employed by the spirits were made by “raps” or “alphabet rapping”, where a medium could relay messages from the deceased by writing letters on a slate. Under more favourable conditions, the spirits were able to speak in a direct voice using of the lungs of the medium, or materialise all vocal organs for their own use

Spirit William Marriott Levitating Table With Foot

Seeing is Believing: Spiritualism in the Victorian Era-Part 2

Cabinet of Curiosities | 26th January 2017

​In mid-Victorian London the early spiritualist movement was relatively small and mainly dominated by the upper circles of society. A varied grouping of middle-class intellectuals and professionals became the early advocates of spiritualism, which included physicians, professors, lawyers and writers of the day.

News Victorian Seance

Seeing is Believing: Spiritualism in the Victorian Era-Part 1

Cabinet of Curiosities | 26th January 2017

Spiritualism has been perceived as a new religion that arrived in England from America in the mid-nineteenth century. The central principles of the Spiritualist movement can be broadly characterized by a belief in the continuity of a life after death, coupled with the conviction that the deceased can communicate with the living through a spiritual medium.

Old Operating Theatre Museum London

A Museum Story

Cabinet of Curiosities | 17th January 2017

It was Sunday morning. For the first time in a while, the sun was shining in London. As I came around the corner from London Bridge Station I looked up at the scaffolding that by now covered the tower of St. Thomas’ church. I climbed the spiral staircase and went into the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret.


The Natural Ordure of Things

Cabinet of Curiosities | 30th December 2016

It’s a fair assumption that not many of us contemplate the complex journey taken, from mouth to anus, of the food we eat. Once swallowed, the entire digestive process is involuntary and occurs without any conscious thought from the individual.


Victorian Attitudes Towards Self-Murder

Cabinet of Curiosities | 11th November 2016

The corpses of those who commit suicide had long been excluded from interment in consecrated ground, rather they were buried at busy junctions in an effort to prevent malign spirits rising from the grave: it was thought that the traffic would keep any hostile force ‘down’. It was also believed that if a supernatural entity did manage to flee the burial pit it would be bewildered by the choice of potential paths offered at the crossroad. The stakes through the heart were a further prophylactic against the escape of evil, they were thought to ‘pin’ corrupt spectres to the spot.


There Together Be Suspended

Cabinet of Curiosities | 10th November 2016

​On November 13th 1849, the felonious couple Frederick and Maria Manning were publicly executed at the Horsemonger Lane Gaol, Southwark, for the murder of Patrick O’Connor – an affair that became known as the “Bermondsey Horror.”

Surrey Gardens

An Englishman’s Paradise

Cabinet of Curiosities | 22nd September 2016

In 1862, while the new buildings of St Thomas’ were under construction near Westminster Bridge, the hospital temporarily moved to Surrey Gardens. Now a populous area between the Kennington and Walworth Roads, the Gardens were once, according to Punch Magazine, ‘the most charming place of amusement in London’.

Witch 1579

Introduction to English Witches in the Early Modern Period

Cabinet of Curiosities | 30th August 2016

​Between 1450 and 1750 ecclesiastical and secular courts tried and executed tens of thousand of people throughout Europe for the crime of witchcraft. Witchcraft may be defined as supernatural activity, believed to be the result of power given by the Devil to cause harm to something or someone~ for instance death~ via non-physical means.


‘Pain has an element of blank’

Cabinet of Curiosities | 30th August 2016

​We assume that our ancestors felt pain in much the same way as we do today. But perhaps this ‘common-sense’ assumption is incorrect. The way individuals relate to the world, including their own bodies, is interpreted through culture, there is no such thing as an unmediated experience. The only way to make sense of the potentially overwhelming and chaotic nature of experiential reality is via reference to learnt, culturally specific narratives and metaphoric tropes.

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