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  • A shield for espionage: Thomas de Leu’s portrait of Sir Francis Drake

    21/11/2016

    The iconography of Sir Francis Drake is rich and complex (Sugden and Turner). His many portraits arise from his fame as a circumnavigator, as admiral in Queen Elizabeth I’s navy, as English hero in the battle against the Spanish Armada,… Continue reading

  • Hieroglyphicks of the City Fathers

    25/07/2016

    The Corporation of London is the local government which controls the square mile known as the City of London. It includes the financial industries based in that small area in the eastern half of the London metropolis. The Corporation has… Continue reading

  • How the fate of the rhino is tied to medicine

    05/06/2016

    The theme of World Environment Day 2016 is the illegal wildlife trade. All five of the world’s species of rhinoceros have been brought to the edge of extinction thanks in part to a lucrative international trade in exotic animals and… Continue reading

  • Parental cares

    01/06/2016

    On the Global Day of Parents, Julia Nurse highlights the moving drawings of Käthe Kollwitz. It is every parent’s nightmare to witness a sick child but it was a frighteningly common scenario before the discovery of penicillin in 1928.  Arguably,… Continue reading

  • Ghostly comings and goings in Shakespeare’s plays

    03/05/2016

    Ross MacFarlane goes ghost hunting through the ages in the next of our series of Shakespeare-themed posts. This Victorian engraving captures a key scene in one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. Hamlet claims to have seen the ghost of his… Continue reading

  • Witness to Palmyra: Louis François Cassas

    18/04/2016

    The exhibition of a scale model of a destroyed arch from Palmyra in Trafalgar Square, London, from tomorrow (19 April 2016) is the latest episode in a long tradition. That tradition consists of attempts, through the prevailing media of the… Continue reading

  • Christ carries death, sin and the devil up a ladder onto the cross

    Easter 1547: a warlord repents

    24/03/2016

    Easter provides a time for considering the significance of the gospels’ accounts of the last days of Jesus Christ: the sequence of crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. The woodcut above shows Martin Luther on the right and his protector Frederick the… Continue reading

  • A gift from the dead of 1945

    27/01/2016

    January brings to the UK not only storms and floods but also a benefit to users of historical collections: copyright expiry. At midnight on 31 December 2015, the copyrights of people who had died in 1945 expired, and it became… Continue reading

  • The fashionable barber

    03/12/2015

    Now that you have grown that beard or moustache for Movember, take the advice of a couple of barbers on how to keep it smart throughout Decembeard. Because, as any hipster will tell you, there’s more to having a beard… Continue reading

  • Spotlight: driving out the demon of smallpox

    03/02/2015

    Smallpox plagued medieval Japan, the disease was thought to be brought on by an Onryō (怨霊), a vengeful mythological spirit. This specific spirit or demon was eventually given the name Hōsōshin (疱瘡神). In the tale of Tametomo and Hōsōshin, the… Continue reading