5.30.2006

Materia Obscura

I stumbled into a rabbit hole and couldn't get out. Well, technically it wasn't a rabbit hole, it was a website. Yesterday evening, I spent ninety minutes reorganizing (mainly deleting) links in my Favorites file. (And my wife thinks my desk is cluttered!) I excavated scads of sites I once scanned.

Like Boing Boing, subtitled A Directory of Wonderful Things. Odd things is more like it. This place is a clearing house for the offbeat and off the wall...which puts it right up my alley. It's also ranked by Technorati as the number two most popular blog. (FYI: Out of 41.8 million sites, Decompose is ranked 85,169. So take that, Gina!)

It was there that I found BibliOdyssey. It's a collection of visual Materia Obscura, antique bookart -- medical and historical illustrations, etchings, and woodcarvings. The site had me tripping hard.

I'm a sucker for articles like Monsters and Philosophy and Mutants: On the Form, Varieties and Errors of Human Body .

At the beginning of the seventeenth century, teratology - literally, the 'science of monsters' - begins to leave the world of the medieval wonder-books behind. When Aldrovandi's Monstrorum historia was published post- humously in 1642, its mixture of the plausible (hairy people, giants, dwarfs and conjoined twins) and the fantastic (stories taken from Pliny of Cyclopes, Satyrs and Sciapodes) was already old-fashioned. Fortunio Liceti's treatise, published in 1616, is mostly about children with clearly recognisable abnormalities - as can be seen from the frontispiece where they are assembled in heraldic poses. True, they include a calf born with a man's head and, inevitably, the Monster of Ravenna. But even this most terrible of creatures is almost seraphic as it grasps the title-banner in its talons.

Man, this is the stuff I cut my adolescent imagination on. For connoisseurs of the curious, Gallery of the Grotesque Marvelous Monstrous is a must-see. Don't worry, these are only 15th/16th century sketches of fabled creatures and physical anomolies like the Bear-headed Roman Senator, Goose-headed Man, Siamese twins (Parastic ectopy) and Long-eared Phanesians. In the BibliOdyssey Archives you'll find such thrilling collections as Dutch Botanical Wall Charts, British Geographical and Trignometrical Surveying History, and Russian Folk Prints. And all this time I've been wondering where I could find Dutch Botanical Wall Charts.

Anyway, I haven't been this excited since I discovered Raquel Welch, er, watched One Million Years B.C.. Guess I'll have to clean out my Favorites file more often.

6 comments:

Gina Holmes said...

I'll check out the site but I doubt it's up my alley. That pic you posted is positively horrible as in what Hell might be like. But thanks for telling us about the site. Good to know what America is up to.

Only 85k Mike? tsk. tsk. Keep at it, little buddy. I'd tell you what we rank but you already cry a little too much for my taste. ; )

Mike Duran said...

Well, at 85K I'm far above Ferd's Gaskets blog and Llama Sheering Made Easy, so I don't feel too bad.

Heather Smith said...

Hmmm...very interesting stuff! By the way, I'm 8,066 on the technorati blog for my devo site! Don't know how! Have a good one!

Gina Holmes said...

Heather, you're going to send Mike over the edge. Is that your intention?

Heather Smith said...

of course! LOL!

mike said...

Show-offs!