'Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be'
As readers of this blog will surely know, the Wellcome Library and Wellcome Images hold one of the world’s great archives of historical medical and scientific images. Over the next few years a new partnership between the Library, Wellcome Collection, and Thames & Hudson will be exploring this remarkable collection, through a series of lavishly-illustrated hardback books. I’ve been working with a team of researchers, editors, and designers on the first volume in this series – The Sick Rose, or, Disease and the Art of Medical Illustration, which will be published in May 2014. This is a coffee-table book that you may not want to leave lying around on your coffee-table, a glorious (and occasionally gruesome) visual history of anatomy, art and revolution in the nineteenth century. We’ll be organising a series of events to mark publication in London and Brookly (as part of my time as Scholar in Residence at the Morbid Anatomy Library), and in the meantime here’s a preview of the cover and a taster of the contents, from the Thames & Hudson spring catalogue:
‘A covetable collection for artists, historians and aficionados of the weird and wonderful, The Sick Rose combines social history with astonishing, sometimes gruesome artwork.
In an era before widespread colour photography, accurate medical illustrations were relied upon to teach students and aid diagnosis. The best examples, featured in this book, are beautiful and morbid, sublime and singular, and remarkable pieces of art. Organised by disease, each chapter focuses on the historical impact of a particular affliction. Objects from Wellcome Collection, such as early stethoscopes, vaccination kits and other medical miscellanea are also featured, as are occasional caricatures, diagrams, paintings and maps The epidemics that shaped the century, such as tuberculosis and syphilis, are placed in context through a lively text by Richard Barnett, who proves to be an affable guide through some macabre territory.
This fascinating Wunderkammer of a book will enthral artists, designers, historians, fans of Francis Bacon, lovers of Zola, readers of Dickens, reciters of Keats, and the incurably curious everywhere.’