Category:

Blog Archives

Phrenology

spurzheim-headPhrenology is "a system of Philosophy of the human Mind; it is founded on facts, and the inductive is the only species of reasoning it admits."  So states Dr. Johann Spurzheim in his outlines on the subject.  Spurzheim, collaborator with Dr. Franz Joseph Gall, the founder of modern phrenology, was instrumental in bringing the science to the attention of the public in the U.K. and the United States.  Today, phrenology is known as a pseudoscience that studies the relationship between a person's character and the physical properties of their skull.  Phrenology can trace its roots way back to the ancient philosopher Aristotle, who wrote on the locations of the mental faculties.  Around the 1800s, Gall was the first to posit a direct link between the formation of the skull and the character of the owner, calling his theory crainiology.  Spurzheim was the one who popularized the term phrenology.  Other power players of the field in the 19th century include the Combe brothers and the Fowler brothers, all of whom wrote extensively on the subject.

phrenology1430000001032Phrenology looked at the development of the skull in relation to the development of certain faculties or temperaments in the person it belonged to.  An example would be the faculty of Parental Love, or "Philoprogenitiveness," which is the faculty that people demonstrate in their love of children.  One could discern the prominence of such a person's love of children by observing the back of the head.  According to Spurzheim and illustrated in a book by O.S. Fowler, "When this organ is large … it gives a drooping appearance to the hind part of the head."

phrenology1430000001028

This new science rapidly gained popularity in the early 19th century, inspiring phrenology parlors where you could have your head read for a fee.  Unfortunately, many of these gained a bad reputation for being scam parlors set to cheat people out of their money, and this bad reputation still tinges thoughts of phrenology today.  Also stemming from the popularity of phrenology during this time were galleries where people could go to see casts, molds, and busts that illustrated each of the faculties and served to educate the general public.  A renowned phrenologist and maker of the "phrenology heads" that have become iconic of the science today was Frederick Bridges, who had such a gallery in Leeds.  Visitors could walk the gallery (using helpful catalogues such as this one) and see such things as a cast from the head of Lord Byron in which, "Ideality is very large.  Wit, and Language, are also large" next to a cast of Shakespeare's head with "Imitation, Ideality, Benevolence, Individuality and Language large."

phrenology1430000001027

phrenology1430000001031

Sphrenology1430000001024ome of the more practical applications of phrenology in the 1800s included using it to defend and/or treat convicted criminals and also to determine the compatibility of two people in a marriage.  In his writing on phrenology and matrimony, Fowler imparts this wisdom upon his unmarried readers, "in the name of nature and of nature's God, marry congenial spirits or none- congenial not in one or two material points, but in all the leading elements of character [...] marry one whose Temperament and Phrenological developments are similar to your own!  Do this, and you are safe, you are happy:  fail to do this, and you marry sorrow and regret."

As phrenology's popularity grew, and also likely owing in part to the many scam phrenology parlors, there were some who became skeptical about this practice, likening phrenology to a form of mysticism.  In his reply to an article published by a Dr. Ashburner about phrenology, mesmerism, and clairvoyance, George Corfe asks, "What parent would deliberately wish to educate a child to become a disciple in such antichristian and immoral principles?"

Outsiders weren't the only ones with criticism for phrenologists.  As with any scientific field, phrenologists would write about the work of their contemporaries, as seen in this pamphlet where the author, George Combe, criticizes another work he has read, eloquently calling its author out on several important points and stating that "This is the second time that Mr. Stone has charged 'dishonesty' against Phrenologists, founded solely on gross mistakes of his own," here also referencing a previous article criticizing phrenological practices.

phrenology1430000001025Phrenology experienced a sort of revival in the early 20th century when scientists began to apply it to other areas of study, such as anthropology, psychology, and pedagogy.  On the negative side, the Nazis and other fascist ideologies have historically misapplied the principles of sciences like phrenology and eugenics to advance their own ways of thinking.  Though not nearly as popular today, studiers of this science remain, active in the pursuit of knowledge and the quest to fulfill the charge of the age-old adage to "Know Thyself."  To learn more about this fascinating branch of science (and maybe more about yourself in the process!), check out the links below and stop in to see us here at Special Collections.

 

All print sources come from our collection.  See links to catalog records in post above for more information.

Online Sources Used:

"Phrenology in the 20th Century." The History of Phrenology. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <http://www.phrenology.org/intro20.html>.

"What Is Phrenology?" Phrenology Lab. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <http://med.stanford.edu/medwebtraining/shc-class/student5/treatments/phrenology-lab.html>.

 

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Rare Book Collection, Special Collections

Halloween Hoodoo

"To catch a spirit, or to protect your spirit against catching, or to release you caught spirit – this is the complete theory and practice of hoodoo."

The above quote opens the five volume set of books entitled Hoodoo–conjuration–witchcraft–rootwork : beliefs accepted by many Negroes and white persons, these being orally recorded among Blacks and whites by Harry M. Hyatt that can be found in Special Collections.  Published in 1970, these books represent the culmination of years of interviews conducted by the author over a large portion of the Southern United States.

Not to be confused (as it commonly is), with voodoo or vodou, which are both religions derived from West African religions with a dash of Christianity thrown in, hoodoo is often classified as folk magic and is practiced mainly in the Southern United States.  The difference between hoodoo and voodoo and vodou is similar to the distinction between Wicca and witchcraft.  Also similar to Wicca and witchcraft is the fact that people often use all these terms interchangeably, though they have different meanings. Thus, one can belong to the voodoo religion and practice hoodoo, but they don't have to, and vice versa.

In hoodoo, a practitioner draws upon the spiritual power residing within them to perform a ritual to bring about power or success.  Today's mainstream culture often portrays hoodoo as a negative thing because of the common misconception that all who practice it are greedy or corrupt.

Hoodoo–conjuration–witchcraft–rootwork is a record of people's interactions with hoodoo, containing many accounts about how the interviewee was affected by a conjure or how someone they knew was affected.  One woman relates the experience she had when her neighbor put a conjure on her by burying a bottle containing  sulfur, hair, a bluestone, and roots of some sort.  According to her, this was the reason she was unable to stay up past ten o'clock each night.  She proceeds to relate how she destroyed the bottle and its contents and was able to stay up much later the following night while the next day the woman next door had to go to the hospital due to a major problem with her leg.  Another interviewee tells the author about a common practice of putting sulfur and ashes from the fireplace in a bag and keeping it in your pocket to ward off those that would do you harm.

Whether or not you believe that hoodoo works, these books make for interesting reading and are a comprehensive relation of a common practice here in the United States that most of us are largely unfamiliar with.  So if you get a chance between your Halloween celebrations, come see us at Special Collections where you can find the books mentioned here along with many others!

 

"Difference Between Hoodoo and Voodoo | Difference Between | Hoodoo vs Voodoo." Difference Between Hoodoo and Voodoo | Difference Between | Hoodoo vs Voodoo. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/culture-miscellaneous/difference-between-hoodoo-and-voodoo/>.
"Haitian_Vodou." Reference.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/Haitian_Vodou>.
"Louisiana_Voodoo." Reference.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/Louisiana_Voodoo>.

 

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Closed Collection, Special Collections

Happy Birthday Arthur Rackham!

Last week marked the 146th anniversary of the birth of Arthur Rackham, illustrator extraordinaire. Best known for his work on children's books, fairytales, and classics, Arthur Rackham's distinctive style continues to be recognized and admired by modern illustrators, art lovers, and readers alike.

Arthur Rackham was born on September 19, 1867 to Anne and Alfred Rackham.  One of twelve children, Arthur grew up to follow in his father's footsteps and began work as a clerk with an insurance company when he was eighteen.  He soon grew bored with that and began taking night classes at a nearby art school.  In 1892, he began work as a full time illustrator with the Westminster Budget where his drawings of everyday life in London and famous personalities were a hit.  They were so popular that he often was assigned to draw royal events, such as the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of York in 1893, who would later be known as King George V and Queen Mary.

As photography began to become more popular in the newspapers, Rackham turned to book illustrations, contributing for several travel books and developing his style by contributing to other works before his first major success in the form of the illustrated Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales in 1900.  The book that really put him on the map, as it were, was his 1905 illustrated Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving.  In this book, Rackham's iconic style is fully developed and becomes enormously popular with each successive year seeing at least one new work published with illustrations by Arthur Rackham.

Rackham is known for various elements that combine in his work such as:

  • flowing lines
  • muted watercolors
  • backgrounds with hidden images or "surprising information"
  • a balance between sensuousness and chastity in his fairies and nymphs
  • just the right amount of ugliness to not be frightening in his trolls
  • forests filled with twisted trees
  • the juxtaposition of the frightening with the beautiful in a single image

In addition to his stunning watercolor prints, Rackham would more frequently do black and white line drawings.  Occasionally he would experiment with silhouette, and this is showcased beautifully in his illustrated The Sleeping Beauty (shown below).

The Sleeping Beauty

Rackham continued his illustrative work until his death from cancer on September 6, 1939.  His last work, completed just before his death, was an illustrated Wind in the Willows that was published posthumously in 1940.

We have a wide range of books and folios showcasing Arthur Rackham's work, including those from the Limited Editions Club and some first editions.  So if you get the chance, come celebrate the life of one of the most beloved children's/fairytale illustrators with us here at Special Collections.

Sources used:

"About Arthur Rackham." The Arthur Rackham Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2013. <http://arthur-rackham-society.org/about_the_artist.html>. 
"Arthur Rackham." Arthur Rackham. N.p., 1998. Web. 16 Sept. 2013. <http://www.bpib.com/illustrat/rackham.htm>.
"Rackham 101." Aleph-Bet Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2013. <http://www.alephbet.com/arthur-rackham-101.php>.
Scott, LaRue. "Arthur Rackham Illustrations." British Heritage 24.4 (2003): 52. EBSCOhost. Web. 18 Sept. 2013. <http://ehis.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=9321715c-f7d8-456c-a626-c6de6fb3fc32%40sessionmgr11&vid=1&hid=5&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=f5h&AN=9676268>.

Author Self-Portrait:

http://www.art-prints-on-demand.com/kunst/arthur_rackham/self_portrait.jpg

Posted in Special Collections
Archives

Special Collections and Rare Books


Find Us on Facebook