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

Books Curiosities Death Murder Playwrights Poison

‘Thou’rt poisoned with that book’

I wanted to share this fascinating object which I stumbled upon on Friday. It is a bible dating to 1600 which contains a secret arsenal of poison. Given its nature, one might assume it was used by travelling assassins, or kept hidden in the library of a large house to dispatch unwanted guests. It was for auction at the Hermann Historica auction house in Germany, and is described, in translation, as follows:

Original book cover in 1600 with finely embossed parchment-related covers. Close book intact, the pages glued to a solid block, and cut out rectangular. Inside, finely crafted device with eleven different sized drawers and an open compartment. The individual drawers with colored paper glued on, the front frame and knobs flame strips of silver and ebonised wood. Handwritten paper labels with the Latin names for various poisonous plants (like Rhicinus, datura, belladonna, valerian, etc.). The greenish glass bottle labeled “est. Statutum hominibus semel mori” (It is given to man to die). In the book cover [is] glued old engraving depicting a standing skeleton, dated “1682”. Dimensions of the book 36 x 23 x 12 cm.

John Webster, in his play The Duchess of Malfi, has the Cardinal kill Julia with a poisoned bible, and it’s fascinating to speculate that rather than coming from his imagination, Webster had instead either seen or heard of an object similar to the one above.

I originally found the image here and the auction house details are here

Booze Entertainment Woodcut

A Dozen Drunkards

From the title page of John Taylor’s A Brown Dozen of Drunkards (1648)

I discovered this wonderful woodcut today. I particularly like the chap throwing up in the bottom left-hand corner.

Children Christmas Entertainment Games

To Vanish A Glasse of Beere

To celebrate Christmas, here are some entertaining party tricks from a children’s magic book published in 1634. Try these at home during the festive season, to the admiration of all.


[The credentials needed for a junior magician] First, he must be one of an impudent and audatious spirit, so that hee may set a good face upon the matter. Secondly, he must have a nimble and cleanly conveyance [that is, a good sleight of hand]. Thirdly, hee must have strange termes, and emphaticall words, to grace and adorne his actions, and the more to astonish the beholders. Fourthly, and lastly, such gestures of body as may leade away the spectators eyes from a strict and diligent beholding his manner of conveyance.

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