A Life in Footnotes

I mentioned some time ago that I was going to investigate (at my usual superficial level, naturally) the life and career of the physician Francesco Travagino (sometimes Travagini), who appears to have taken advantage of a space on somebody else’s tombstone in the church of the Frari in Venice to boast of his supreme achievement, election as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Great Britain. Continue reading

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Plant of the Month: April 2019

Which came first, fritillary as the name of a plant (Fritillaria meleagris, the snake’s-head fritillary, also known as chess-flower, Lazarus-bell, leper-lily, frog-cup, or drooping tulip), or fritillary as the name of a butterfly? It seems that the plant has priority, as its first mention is alleged to be in a communication from a French physician and botanist, Noel Caperon, to Carolus Clusius, sending him a specimen of the plant and suggesting that it be called Fritillaria, after the Latin word for a chessboard, fritillus. Continue reading

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The Charterhouse

Another real bargain in London … Last week I took a tour of the Charterhouse. In my case it was organised by the Friends of Strawberry Hill, but you can book online yourself. I was escorted there by kind relatives (who know all too well that the four-month-old relative has a better idea of London than I do), first to the Barbican Tube, and thence to a building that I thought I recognised. ‘Is that Covent Garden?’ ‘No, it’s Smithfield.’ Continue reading

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The Vernal Equinox

‘The vernal equinox has come too soon’ is, Him Indoors assures me, the opening line of a welcome ode written to celebrate the visit of Her Majesty The Queen to his school at some point in the 1960s. I have never been able to verify this … However, this year, the vernal equinox has come bang on time (it can fall on the 19th, 20th or 21st March, apparently) to celebrate the anniversary of my New Life. Continue reading

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Object of the Month: March 2019

May I strongly recommend the new exhibition in the Fan Gallery at the Fitzwilliam Museum (it’s on until January 2020, so you have plenty of time)? It is a selection of the fan collection of the Hon. Christopher Lennox-Boyd, given to the Museum in 2015 under the government’s AIL scheme, and is a very good fit with the Museum’s existing Messel-Rosse collection. In fact, I saw the Lennox-Boyd fans, mostly still in boxes, soon after they arrived in 2015, having no idea at the time of the closer relationship with the Museum on which I later embarked … Continue reading

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Plant of the Month: March 2019

As I have mentioned in passing before, the botanist Pierre Magnol (1638–1715) was born in Montpellier, and spent most of his life there. His father and grandfather were apothecaries, and his mother’s male relatives were physicians. His older brother César inherited the business, but Pierre, who had shown an interest in botany from a very early age, entered the university of Montpellier (officially founded in 1289 by a papal bull of Nicholas IV, which pulled together the pre-existing schools of law, medicine and theology into one institution) in 1655 to study medicine. Continue reading

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Ruskin at Two Hundred

To London last week for a few days of Culture. I decided to go down the night before my first assignation, rather than turn up at Two Temple Place (which does not have cloakroom facilities) with two stuffed gorillas and a glue gun in my luggage. The only downside to this is that the morning call in my well-appointed guest-house comes in the form of an ear-shattering crash as the door is flung open (with the knob yet further indenting the side wall) at 6.30 a.m. by a flatteringly excited two-year-old … Continue reading

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