Category Archives: Curiosities


A very large and faire Paire

A rather curious account of a mermaid spotted off the coast of Wales in 1603. Taken from A most strange and true report of a monsterous fish, who appeared in the forme of a woman, from her waste upwards (1604)

ON Fryday the xvij. day of Februarie last past 1603. about three of the clocke in the after noone, one Thomas Raynold of Pendine, (a Village in the Countie of Carmarden) a very honest and substanciall Yeoman, walking neare the shores side, not far from a high Land or Poynt in the same parish, called Hollogoho, betweene Gylmanes Poynt and Tolwen, he saw swimming in the Sea (neare the Poynt) a most strange and wonderfull thing: the greatnes and rarenes whereof, being of that forme and length, albeit he was a man of good sence and spright, having reason and judgement, more then many of no better education, drove him so to admire there at, that he spent the better part of two howers viewing of it, as it drave with the Tyde towardes the shore, betweene the two Poynts: where he did discover it at his full pleasure in this forme. The shape of a very lively Woman, from her wast upwardes, which was all above the water: her cullour browne: a very large and faire Paire: over which (to his seeming) was a thing like a Hood, about her necke in maner of a white Band, her Brestes round and very white, with two fayre handes, everie thing formally as a Woman.

Thomas Raynold having with great wonder noted all this, neare two howers space, in good fight, and tooke good notise thereof, imagining what might be thought, of unbeleeving people, if he should report it, having no body to justifie his wordes, although he be a man of credite: yet leaving it for a time, as waighing his reputation, speedeth him in all haste to the Towne, where, so many of his honest neighbours and coosens as he could sodainely finde, he caused to goe with him to the Poynt, where he left it, to witnesse what he had seene.

Who likewise had good view thereof halfe an houre and more, never changing any shape, but as Raynold had seene it. A most dreadfull woonder to many of those beholders, which diversly censured thereof: some being afrayde, least it might be otherwise then it shewed: Standing thus amazed at the sight, with turning of the Tyde, it made way from the place where they saw it swimming: then in swimming, (which was more admirable) it appeared in cullour gray, with eares like a Hound, but somewhat greater and shorter: her backe like unto a Cock-boate, a full yard or more in breadth: her tayle to their seeming, two fothomes in length: in her swimming she went South-east to the Sea: Then came shee North-east to Tolwen, where shee continued untill night: at which time, the darkenesse of the night approching, the beholders lost her sight, and from that time, was never seene more, or heard of as yet, about all the coast. Three howers full or more, they had perfect sight of her, as I have written.

Curiosities Torture


I stumbled upon another woodcut of seventeenth century waterboarding earlier today, which dates from 1624. You can read a detailed, if gruesome, later published account of the event itself here

Curiosities Family Food Women Woodcut

Every day she nourisht him, with her most tender brest

Two intriguing early modern woodcuts which depict the breastfeeding scene from the story of Roman Charity recorded by Valerius Maximus. Pero secretly breastfeeds her father Cimon who is imprisoned and otherwise liable to starve to death. Her selfless act leads to her father’s pardon and release. The story appears to have been popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and even Rubens depicted the scene. Below are both woodcuts, the first dates from 1635, and the second from 1750. It’s interesting to note the same image inverted and changed in the second woodcut. These are the only examples of breastfeeding images in woodcuts I’ve seen to date.

From A worthy example of a vertuous wife who fed her father with her own milk, being condemned to be famished to death and after was pardoned by the Emperor. To the tune of Flying fame (1635)


From Roman charity: A worthy example of a virtuous wife, who fed her father with her own milk. He being commanded by the emperor to be starved to death, but afterwards pardoned (1750)


Roman Charity by Rubens (c.1612)

Curiosities London

My privie shall be round


This woodcut comes from a 1596 text outlining one man’s vision of the dream public loo.

My Priuie shalbe a Round, (one of the fiue regular bodies in Geometrie) built like the tower of Babel, & vppon vaults to, wel tarras’t after the finest fashion: now for the tunnel I mean to raise it in the midst, prouided that diuers doores and windowes shall bee made on euery side, that if neuer so little winde blowe (if a man bee wetherwise) hee shall bee able to emptie his belly without diseasing his nose.

For more on Elizabethan loos, see here

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