The Early Modern Commons

Res Obscura

Recent Posts

Urine, Phosphorus, and the Philosopher's Stone

26 June 2017

Joseph Wright of Derby, The Alchemist Discovers Phosphorus, 1771 (detail). In 1681, the English writer John Evelyn covered his face with a glowing material, newly invented...

Why Are There So Many 17th Century Paintings of Monkeys Getting Drunk?

4 May 2017

On cold Friday in 1660, Samuel Pepys encountered two unpleasant surprises. "At home found all well," he wrote in his diary, "but the monkey loose, which did anger me, and so I did strike...

On the Women’s Petition Against Coffee of 1674

8 April 2017

“That Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor called COFFEE.” Imagine a space where you can bet on bear fights, warm your legs by the fire, witness public dissections...

How to Write the History of Science?

3 February 2016

Metallurgist testing a new alloy from New Frontiers in Science (1964), a vintage textbook I bought from a retired science teacher in Austin, TX a few years ago.  Is the history...