Ploughman painting

The Toadmen, Masters of Equine Magic

A strange initiation ritual involving a toad was required for members of a secret caste of nineteenth-century horse mystics.
Charles I royal touch

The Divine Power of Kings to Heal by Touch

Healing ceremonies showed that monarchs ruled by God’s will, as divine power worked through anointed hands.
Bedridden King Charles VI

The French King Who Believed He Was Made of Glass

King Charles VI of France was the most exalted representative of a rash of "Glass Men," who appeared throughout Europe between the 15th and 17th centuries.
Iskander Miscellany

The Ultimate Bespoke Manuscript

In The Miscellany of Iskandar Sultan, sections of text stack on top of one another, interlaced like fretwork. Bursts of flowers and tangles of vines fill the empty spaces.
Alexander The Great mosaic

The Other Alexander the Great

Stories emerged in the centuries after Alexander the Great’s death. They revolved around Alexander's failures, not his victories. The portrait that emerges is strangely poignant.
Topkapi Gate of Felicity

The Secret Sign Language of the Ottoman Court

Deaf servants were favored companions of the Ottoman sultan, and their facility in nonverbal communication made them indispensable to the court.
Book of Curiosities

Ancient Maps Are Mirrors for the Ancient Psyche

The Book of Curiosities of the Sciences, and Marvels for the Eyes, an eleventh-century Arabic geography, is still a wonder.