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Amelia Soth

Amelia Soth

Amelia Soth is a Wisconsin-based writer. She also writes and edits for Mouse Magazine, and more of her writing can be found at ameliasoth.com.

Cyrano de Bergerac

The Seventeenth-Century Space Race (for the Soul)

The astronomical discoveries of the 1600s—such as Saturn’s rings—prompted new questions about the structure of the cosmos and humans’ place in it.
Saint Mary of Egypt by Angelo Maccagnino, 15th century

Wild Saints and Holy Fools

Early Christian writers valorized the desert life of ascetic monks, but the city also had something to offer would-be “fools for Christ”.
Broadside on the Anglo-Dutch wars, attacking Cromwell's aggression against Holland, and domestic tyranny; Cromwell stands in centre, with the tail of a serpent, made up of the gold coins of the Commonwealth

When All the English Had Tails

Where did the myth that English men (and probably women) were hiding tails beneath their clothing come from? And what was that about eggs?
An illustration showing fencing positions, 1610

The Fencing Moral Panic of Elizabethan London

In Elizabethan England, it seemed like everyone was carrying a sharpened object with the intent to inflict damage.
An illustration of bundling

Bundling: An Old Tradition on New Ground

Common in colonial New England, bundling allowed a suitor to spend a night in bed with his sweetheart—while her parents slept in the next room.
Nature Sets Her Hound Youth after the Stag (from The Hunt of the Frail Stag), circa 1495–1510

Reading “The Book of Nature”

Beginning in the Middle Ages, the natural world was viewed as a Christian parable, helping humans to give divine meaning to plants, animals, and the heavens.
Top portion of a "Letter from Heaven," produced in England, 18th century

Himmelsbriefe: Heaven-Sent Chain Letters

For more than a thousand years, people have used letters allegedly written by Christ as both doctrinal evidence and magical charms.
Saint Clare of Montefalco

Autopsy of a Saint

In the late thirteenth century, followers of the Italian abbess Clare of Montefalco dissected her heart in search of a crucifix.
Athanasius Kircher

Athanasius Kircher’s “Musical Ark”

The first algorithmically generated music came to us in the seventeenth century, courtesy of Kircher and his Arca musarithmica.
An illustration of Dublin with a fleet of medieval ships above it in the sky

Ireland’s Upper Sea

In medieval Ireland, ships that sailed across the sky were both marvelous and mundane.
Preparatory sketches for a pittura infamante or shame painting by Andrea del Sarto

Punitive Portraits of the Renaissance

The Italian legal tradition called for the public display of a humiliating—but recognizable—portrait of the disgraced person.
Leukerbad, Switzerland

Madness on the Wind

The eerie effects of the Foehn—folklore or fact?
Antique illustration: Sleeping at sea

The Women Who Preached in Their Sleep

Was sleep-preaching an ingenious way for oppressed women to subvert the social order through somniloquy?
Degradation of William Sawtrey

Unmaking a Priest: The Rite of Degradation

The defrocking ceremony was meant to humiliate a disgraced member of the clergy while discouraging laypeople from viewing him as a martyr.
Dummy boards, British or Dutch, circa 1690

Dummy Boards: the Fun Figures of the 1600s

These life-sized painted figures, popular in Europe and colonial America in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century, were designed to amuse and confuse.
Marshall Islands stick chart, Meddo type

Marshall Islands Wave Charts

Charts constructed of carefully bound sticks served as memory aids, allowing sailors of the Marshall Islands to navigate between the islands by feel.
A jet brooch with a vulcanite ring

Victorians Mourned with Vulcanized Rubber Jewelry

Nineteenth-century Anglo-American mourning rituals called for a period of sentimental sadness, but they also demanded an investment in clothing and jewelry.
A Zabbal on a Cairo street

Cairo’s Zabbaleen and Secret Life of Trash

In Egypt's capital, members of an impoverished Coptic population strengthen community ties while making a living as ragpickers.
Source: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/40690/40690-h/40690-h.htm

Walking Streetlamps for Hire in Seventeenth-Century London

Much in the same way we hail cabs in cities today, a medieval Londoner could hail a torch-bearer (a link-boy) to light their way home from a night on the town.
Japanese double folio clock (Wadokei)

A Tale of Two Times: Edo Japan Encounters the European Clock

In country that followed a time-keeping system with variable hours, the fixed-hour clock of the Europeans had only symbolic value.
Chinese incense clock that measures time by burning powdered incense along a pre-measured path, with each stencil representing a different amount of time.

Keeping Time with Incense Clocks

As chronicled by Chinese poet Yu Jianwu, the use of fire and smoke for time measurement dates back to at least the sixth century CE.
A selection of Akan Gold Weights

Gold Weights and Wind Scales in the Asante Empire

The ornamented tools used to ensure fair market transactions also conveyed the stories and values of the Akan peoples.
Perseus Rescuing Andromeda by Cavaliere D'Arpino, painted on lapis lazuli

Paintings Made of Stone

Renaissance painters incorporated the inherent qualities of stone to produce works of art that revealed the beauty of nature and hand of God.
Lightning rod hats fashion of circa 1778

Electrical Fashions

From the light-bulb dress to galvanic belts, electrified clothing offered a way to experience and conquer a mysterious and vigorous force.
Natural Lace from the Lace Bark Tree

Lacebark as a Symbol of Resilience

For the enslaved people of Jamaica, the lacebark tree was a valuable natural resource and a means of asserting one's dignity.