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The introduction of gin to England was a delirious and deleterious affair, as tipplers reported a range of effects: loss of reason, frenzy, madness, joy, and death. With the help of prints by George Cruikshank, William Hogarth, and others, James Brown enters the architecture of intoxication — dram shops, gin halls, barbershops — exploring the spaces that catered to pleasure or evil, depending who you asked. more
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Influencing numerous later animal tales told around the world, the 8th-century Arabic fables of Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ’s Kalīlah wa-Dimnah also inspired a rich visual tradition of illustration: jackals on trial, airborne turtles, and unlikely alliances between species. Marina Warner follows these stories as they wander and change across time and place, celebrating their sharp political observation and stimulating mix of humour, earnesty, and melancholy. more
Outselling books by Arthur Conan Doyle and H. G. Wells in their day, Marie Corelli’s occult romance novels brim with fantasies of telepathy, mesmerism, and radioactivity. Steven Connor revisits The Life Everlasting (1911), where the recent discovery of radium shapes the mechanics of phantasmal machines and psychic forces able to pass through all impediments. more
For almost 250 years, a mysterious pleasure park sat on the banks of Amsterdam's canals. Angela Vanhaelen leads us on a tour of the bawdy fountains, disorienting maze, and mechanical androids in the Oude Doolhof — an attraction that mingled pagan, protestant, and imperial desires. more
A mysterious staple of Buenos Aires nightlife in the 1910s and 20s, Raúl Grigera was an audacious Afro-Argentine dandy, an eccentric bohemian icon, a man who called himself el murciélago (the bat). Paulina L. Alberto examines the racial stories told by photographs, comic strips, and newspaper articles about a person many knew only as “el negro Raúl”, searching for the life behind the legend. more
Charles Perrault is celebrated as the collector of some of the world’s best-known fairy tales. But his brothers were just as remarkable: Claude, an architect of the Louvre, and Pierre, who discovered the hydrological cycle. As Hugh Aldersey-Williams explores, all three were able to use positions within the orbit of the Sun King to advance their modern ideas about the world. more
Those who sipped or sniffed ether and chloroform in the 19th century experienced a range of effects from these repurposed anaesthetics, including preternatural mental clarity, psychological hauntings, and slippages of space and time. Mike Jay explores how the powerful solvents shaped the writings of Guy de Maupassant and Jean Lorrain — psychonauts who opened the door to an invisible dimension of mind and suffered Promethean consequences. more
From cabbage green to course meal, medieval manuscripts exhibit a spectrum of colours and consistencies when describing urine. Katherine Harvey examines the complex practices of uroscopy: how physicians could divine sexual history, disease, and impending death by studying the body's liquid excretions. more
Beneath the waves, off the Suffolk Coast, lies a city taken by the sea through centuries of erosion. Matthew Green revisits Dunwich, a once lively port transfigured into a symbol of loss, both eerie and profound, for generations of artists, poets, and historians drawn to its ruinous shores. more
During the late 1660s in Paris, transfusing the blood of calves and lambs into human veins held the promise of renewed youth and vigour. Peter Sahlins explores Jean Denis’ controversial experiments driven by his belief in the moral superiority of animal blood: a substance that could help redeem the fallen state of humanity. more
When the womb began to appear in printed images during the 16th century, it was understood through analogy: a garden, uroscopy flask, or microcosm of the universe. Rebecca Whiteley explores early modern birth figures, which picture the foetus in utero, and discovers an iconic form imbued with multiple kinds of knowledge: from midwifery know-how to alchemical secrets, astrological systems to new anatomical findings. more
In the 1930s, Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn, mystic and founder of the multidisciplinary Eranos forum, began compiling a diverse visual archive that would allow dreamers to cross-reference their visions with the entirety of cultural history. Frederika Tevebring explores this grandiose undertaking and its effect on the archivist, as images from the collection began to blur with her psyche. more
Erotic magic, Black emancipation, gender fluidity, interplanetary spirit realms — these were but a few of the topics that preoccupied Paschal Beverly Randolph (b. 1825), an occult thinker who believed that his multiracial identity afforded him “peculiar mental power and marvelous versatility”. Lara Langer Cohen considers the neglected politics of Randolph’s esoteric writings alongside the repeated frustration of his activism: how dreams of other worlds, above and below our own, reflect the unfulfilled promises of Emancipation. more