Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

All images via the New York Public Library Digital Gallery. What's up with the mushroom motif? Forgotten New Years metaphors? Ideas, anyone?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

People Take Warning! Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs 1913-1938

As I type this entry, I am enjoying the wonderful CD set People Take Warning! Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs 1913-1938.

It is a 3 CD set, packed into an illustrated book full of historical information about each song. There are three themed CDs--"Man versus Machine," "Man versus Nature," and "Man versus Man (and Woman too.)" Here is a sample of some of the songs you'll find here: "Titanic Blues (1932)" (one of about 5 other songs on this theme), "Memphis Flu (1930)," "Burning of the Cleveland School (1933), "Fatal Wreck of the Bus (1936)," "The Santa Barbara Earthquake (1928) , and "Murder of the Lawson Family" (1930).

Thanks, Herbert, for alerting me to this collection. And special thanks to Gerry Newland for buying it for me. You can download an MP3 from the collection and find out more here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Art of Medical Models, via Metafilter

Check out this great posting on Meta Filter about The Art of Medical Models. Make sure to check out the comments as well.

Photos from my photography show Anatomical Theatre, on the very same (wonderful) topic. More photos here and here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas From Krampus and Morbid Anatomy!

When I lived in Budapest, I learned of the Eastern European tradition of Saint Nikolas' evil sidekick, Krampus. This is by far my favorite of Christmas traditions. So, from Morbid Anatomy and our evil sidekick Krampus, a non-denominational Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Another Book For The Wishlist

I just found out about this wonderful looking book: The Anatomist: A True Story of Gray's Anatomy.

It is heartening (sic) to see anatomy increase its inroads into popular culture! Read more about the book here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Musée de la Médecine, Brussels, Belgium

When in Belgium recently, I made a special, very rushed visit to the Musée de la Médecine in Brussels; I made the trek because I had come across a few tantalizing clues that perhaps some of the infamous Spiztner models had found their way into the collection. The Spitzner collection was a famous grouping of popular anatomical waxes exhibited around European fairgrounds in the 19th Century; The Spitzner models, and other popular anatomical exhibitions, were pruriently lowbrow, ostensibly educational exhibitions of wax anatomical models, with an emphasis on depictions of the unclothed female form, reproductive organs, and body parts ravaged by a variety of sexually transmitted diseases. They were a kind of pop-culture analogue to the academic, ostensibly neutrally scientific anatomical models, of the sort exhibited at La Specola in Florence.

I am not sure if the models on display at the Musée de la Médecine were actually from the Spitzner collection, but I saw a lot of evidence to suggest that at least some of them were, including what appeared to be original signage from the collection. Sadly, some of the models I had most hoped to see, such as the breathing anatomical woman so important to the surrealistic visions of Paul Delvaux, were not on display. I was unable to find any human being who might be able to answer my questions, so I am still unsure about the breadth or provenance of the collection. If anyone knows anything about this collection, please let me know!

Pictures above taken in the museum; view more here. For historical photos of the collection (from the book Vior-La Collection Spitzner) click here.

For more on the topic: the Spitzner Models are expounded upon quite nicely in a recent post on Bioephemera and researched wonderfully in Kathryn A. Hoffmann's revalatory "Sleeping Beauties in the Faiground: The Spitzner, Pedley and Chemisé Exhibits). See Michael Sappol's wonderful "Morbid Curiosity":The Decline and Fall of the Popular Anatomical Museum" for a history of popular anatomical museums, and a recent Morbid Anatomy post for information focussing on another collection of such models.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

To Die No More, Blind Pony Books, 2008

Another book to covet this holiday season, co-edited and illustrated by my friend Herbert Pfostl and published by Blind Pony Books. In Herbert's words:

Inspired by Guido Ceronetti's great but little known Silence of the Body, To Die No More is an artist's book about the marvelous embroideries of death taken from many sources both known and long forgotten. 170 fragments - from Aries to Wittgenstein - collected and edited by Herbert Pfostl and Kristofor Minta with splinters by Kristofor Minta, ruins, appropriated by James Walsh, and small paintings of shipwrecks, animals, robbers and ashes by Herbert Pfostl. Made with great care and sober like a good dream. Dedicated to the deeply dead and the truly living.

Note to reader: I have stood, aghast, before this man's library; if that is any hint as to what this book might contain, it is sure to be amazing.

Find out more about the book, distributed by D.A.P.,here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Things to Covet at "That Time of Year"

Thanks to my friend Pam of the wonderful Phantasmaphile website for alerting me to reduction in price of the wonderful, (and long coveted, by me at least) Taschen book Atlas of Anatomy and Surgery: The Complete Coloured Plates of 1831-1854 , by J. M. Bourgery (pictured above.) It is a largescale book--11.4 x 15.9 in.--and runs to 714 pages filled with lavish color anatomical plates by illustrator N.H. Jacob. The book is pleasurably reminiscent of the oversized, luxurious folios so popular with collectors over the course of the history of medicine (Vesalius comes to mind...). Taschen is offering it for 50% off, bringing the price down to (the still hefty) $100. But still... It might be worth it? I, for one, am undecided.

Read more about it (and maybe even order a copy for yourself or a loved one?) here.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

India's Underground Trade in Human Remains

I had assumed that the black-market industry dealing in human remains was a thing of the distant past; turns out I was wrong. It seems there is still a steady black-market trade, and it is centered in India; Scott Carney tells (and shows) the fascinating story in this month's Wired Magazine and on NPR.

Carney details the story of how India came to dominate the market supplying display-grade skeletons for medical schools in the United States and Europe. India enjoyed a lucrative and legal trade in the skeletons for over a century; it dominated the market because its product was renowned as the best, with "specimens scrubbed to a pristine white patina and fitted with high-quality connecting hardware." (Wired) The legal trade was banned in 1985, after rumors surfaced that traders were murdering people for their bones. The practice, however, did not end; it simply went underground. Medical schools still needed display skeletons and were willing to pay a handsome price; a lucrative (see above chart) and brisk trade in black-market skeletons surfaced to supply the demand, with traders resorting to digging up graves and other ethically questionable practices to procure product.

This story is fascinating in how it highlights how little has changed, in substance or detail, since the 19th Century, with its Burke and Hare scandals, its graverobbers and resurrectionists, popular fear of the safety of the body after death, and the lucrative nature of the ethically slippery human remains. Like the 19th Century, medical schools are hungry for a supply of human remains, human remains are hard to come by, and enterprising entrepreneurs are rising to the occasion.

Check out the full stories (and images) here and in here.