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“O Uommibatto”: How the Pre-Raphaelites Became Obsessed with the Wombat

- January 10, 2019 in Art & Illustrations, australia, Cheyne Walk, Christina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, Featured Articles, Jane Morris, poetry, Pre-Raphaelites, Rossetti's wombat, Top the wombat, william morris, wombats

Angus Trumble on Dante Gabriel Rossetti and co's curious but longstanding fixation with the furry oddity that is the wombat — that "most beautiful of God's creatures" which found its way into their poems, their art, and even, for a brief while, their homes.

Rambling Reflections: On Summers in Switzerland and Sheffield

- December 11, 2018 in Featured Articles, flâneur, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl phillip moritz, Literature, Philosophy, romanticism, Rousseau, w.g. sebald, walking, Yorkshire

In the footsteps of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Karl Philipp Moritz — from the peace of Lake Biel to the rugged Peaks — Seán Williams considers the connection between walking and writing.

Mesmerising Science: The Franklin Commission and the Modern Clinical Trial

- November 20, 2018 in animal magnetism, baquet, benjamin franklin, Featured Articles, Franz Mesmer, history of clinical trials, hypnosis, magnetism, mesmerism, placebo, Science & Medicine, suggestion

Benjamin Franklin, magnetic trees, and erotically-charged séances — Urte Laukaityte on how a craze for sessions of "animal magnetism" in late 18th-century Paris led to the randomised placebo-controlled and double-blind clinical trials we know and love today.

Divining the Witch of York: Propaganda and Prophecy

- October 24, 2018 in apocalypse, Culture & History, English Civil War, Featured Articles, henry viii, mother shipton, occult, poetry, predictions of the end of the world, propaganda, prophecies, prophecy, Religion, Myth & Legend, witch of york, witches

Said to be spawn of the devil himself and possessed with great powers of prophetic insight, Mother Shipton was Yorkshire's answer to Nostradamus. Ed Simon looks into how, regardless of whether this prophetess witch actually existed or not, the legend of Mother Shipton has wielded great power for centuries — from the turmoil of Tudor courts, through the frictions of civil war, to the spectre of Victorian apocalypse.

Grandville, Visions, and Dreams

- September 26, 2018 in Art & Illustrations, Books, caricature, Featured Articles, grandville, illustration, J.J. Grandville, satire, surrealism

With its dreamlike inversions and kaleidoscopic cast of anthropomorphic objects, animals, and plants, the world of French artist J. J. Grandville is at once both delightful and disquieting. Patricia Mainardi explores the unique work of this 19th-century illustrator now recognised as a major precursor and inspiration to the Surrealist movement.

Eric, Count Stenbock: A Catch Of A Ghost

- September 12, 2018 in Books, count stenbock, decadence, decadent movement, eric stenbock, estonia, estonian writers, Featured Articles, gay writers, Literature, occult, occultism, oscar wilde, poetry, w. b. yeats

With his extravagant dress, entourage of exotic pets, and morbid fascinations, Count Stenbock is considered one of the greatest exemplars of the Decadent movement. David Tibet on the enigmatic writer’s short and curious life.

Exquisite Rot: Spalted Wood and the Lost Art of Intarsia

- May 16, 2018 in Art & Illustrations, Charles V, craftmanship, Featured Articles, Fra Damiano da Bergamo, intarsia, marquetry, Renaissance, Studiolo from the Ducal Palace in Gubbio, Studiolo Gubbio, woodwork

The technique of intarsia — the fitting together of pieces of intricately cut wood to make often complex images — has produced some of the most awe-inspiring pieces of Renaissance craftsmanship. Daniel Elkind explores the history of this masterful art, and how an added dash of colour arose from a most unlikely source: lumber ridden with fungus.

Exquisite Rot: Spalted Wood and the Lost Art of Intarsia

- May 16, 2018 in Art & Illustrations, Charles V, craftmanship, Featured Articles, Fra Damiano da Bergamo, intarsia, marquetry, Renaissance, Studiolo from the Ducal Palace in Gubbio, Studiolo Gubbio, woodwork

The technique of intarsia — the fitting together of pieces of intricately cut wood to make often complex images — has produced some of the most awe-inspiring pieces of Renaissance craftsmanship. Daniel Elkind explores the history of this masterful art, and how an added dash of colour arose from a most unlikely source: lumber ridden with fungus.

Made in Taiwan? How a Frenchman Fooled 18th-Century London

- April 18, 2018 in Books, Culture & History, Featured Articles, formosa, George Psalmanazar, greatest literary hoaxes, historical hoax, hoax, impostor, invented languages, taiwan

Benjamin Breen on the remarkable story of George Psalmanazar, the mysterious Frenchman who successfully posed as a native of Formosa (now modern Taiwan) and gave birth to a meticulously fabricated culture with exotic customs, social systems, and its own invented language.

“Alas, Poor YORICK!”: The Death and Life of Laurence Sterne

- March 7, 2018 in consumption, death, Featured Articles, Laurence Sterne, Literature, mortality, sentimental journey, tristram shandy

On the 250th anniversary of Laurence Sterne's death, Ian Campbell Ross looks at the engagement with mortality so important to the novelist's groundbreaking work.