Monogram, label and stamp: Clues to the fate of a rare book

Monogram, label and stamp: Clues to the fate of a rare book

Many rare books have had a long and exciting journey on their way to a safe haven in a library. These works have for example seen continuous change in ownership and travelled through many countries over the centuries. The fate of these ‘travelling books’ has often been documented: thus handwritten notes, stamps and labels have assumed the role of storyteller, in many cases leaving unsolved mysteries in their wake. Read more

The terror of frogs and the birth of the novel Frankenstein

The terror of frogs and the birth of the novel Frankenstein

Many thousands of frogs fell victim to Luigi Galvani’s scientific curiosity, and all because the anatomist observed how the leg of a dissected frog began to twitch as if from nowhere. This occurrence took place in Bologna in 1780 and led to one of the most important discourses in scientific history – and to the birth of the novel Frankenstein. Read more

From the eruption of Krakatoa to Munch’s The Scream – the phenomenon known as the twilight effect

From the eruption of Krakatoa to Munch’s The Scream – the phenomenon known as the twilight effect

On 27 August 1883 the volcano known as Krakatoa, itself part of an island archipelago of the same name, was destroyed in an enormous explosion. The detonation’s blast is said to have been heard thousands of kilometres away, sending shock waves round the world several times. Read more

How a dentist wrote medical history with an iron hand

How a dentist wrote medical history with an iron hand

When demand for prostheses increased massively in war-torn Europe at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Pierre Ballif (1775–1831), personal dentist to the King of Prussia in Berlin, developed new technology and in doing so created the basis for the further development of artificial limbs. Read more

Drawing electricity out of the clouds: Benjamin Franklin’s ‘Letters about Electricity’

Drawing electricity out of the clouds: Benjamin Franklin’s ‘Letters about Electricity’

‘Eripuit caelo fulmen sceptrumque tyrannis’ (He snatched the thunderbolt from heaven and the sceptre from tyrants) is an epigram about Benjamin Franklin, coined by the French economist and minister Anne-Robert Jacques Turgot (Möhring 2010, p. 253). It shows that Franklin achieved fame in the eighteenth century not only as co-author and signatory of the American Declaration of Independence but also as researcher into electricity and inventor of the lightning conductor. Read more

Assertio 123 – Galileo Galilei recants

Assertio 123 – Galileo Galilei recants

When the title of a book is ‘Anticopernicus catholicus’, it is not necessary to explain that its author Giorgio Polacco pits himself against the heliocentric world view and it is likewise clear that the arguments of the Roman Catholic church must be anticipated. That his own condemnation and adjuration – printed in full – also had to be used as an argument would not have pleased Galileo Galilei at all. Read more

Ein Leben von Aah! bis Leiche: Krünitz und seine „Oekonomische Encyklopädie“

Ein Leben von Aah! bis Leiche: Krünitz und seine „Oekonomische Encyklopädie“

Ganze 242 Bände umfasst die gigantische „Oekonomische Encyklopädie“, das Lebenswerk von Johann Georg Krünitz (1728 – 1796). Bemerkenswert ist nicht nur der Umfang dieser bedeutenden Quelle zur Wirtschaft und Technik seiner Zeit, sondern auch die Todesumstände seines Autors. Read more