Illustration of Ferdinand Magellan

The Pirate-y Life of Ferdinand Magellan

Magellan’s voyage in search of the “Spice Islands” was marked by storms, sharks, and scurvy—plus multiple attempts at mutiny.
From a poster for Charles Frohman’s dramatic production, The Hand of Destiny by Pierre Decourcelle, 1896

Why Did “Thieves’ Cant” Carry an Unshakeable Allure?

If thieves’ cant—a language known only to criminals—was the Devil’s cabinet, bourgeois society couldn’t help but peep inside.
Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Willem van der Meer by Michiel van Mierevelt

Public Dissection Was a Gruesome Spectacle

Renaissance-era anatomists taught people to “knowe thyself” by reading the books of bodies.
Pope Sixtus V abortion ban

What a 16th-Century Abortion Ban Revealed

In 1588, Pope Sixtus V issued a papal bull officially classifying abortion, regardless of the stage of fetal development, as homicide.
Leonardo da Vinci

What Beards Said About Renaissance Masculinity

The role beards played in defining masculinity during the Renaissance.