Tipu’s (or Tippoo’s) Tiger is a life-sized wooden mechanical organ made around 1793, depicting a tiger mauling a man in European clothing. When the crank is turned, a hidden mechanism causes the man’s arm to goes up and down, and plays his wails of agony along the growls of the tiger. Under a flap on the tiger’s body there is also a small pipe organ, which can play 18 notes.
Alphonse Bertillon was a French police officer and biometrics researcher who was responsible for standardizing the modern mug shot. (Fun fact: the profile shot was included because Bertillon thought our ear shape might become a unique identifier, in the days before fingerprinting). This cute mug shot features his two-year old son François Bertillon, a hardened criminal who was caught nibbling all the pears from a basket on 17 October 1893. This mug shot is adorable, but it is also a […]
When I was a kid, my weird and wonderful mother used to amuse us by picking up the cat and pretending to play it like a bagpipe, using its tail as a mouthpiece. Her improvised feline instrument has, sadly, been upstaged by my discovery of the Katzenklavier, a Cat-Piano (also known as a cat organ) dreamed up in the 16th century.
This very rare doll from the early nineteenth century demonstrates a very innovative design for its day: a wheel of legs which allow the doll to ‘walk’ when it is pushed across the floor. The doll would have originally been costumed in a long dress to hide the leg mechanism, so only two walking feet would have shown at a time. The value of this remarkable hand-carved doll, with its enamel eyes, coiled chignon, jointed arms and delicately painted features, […]
Palmistry, also known as chiromancy, is the art of interpreting lines on the hand to evaluate someone’s character or foretell their future. The history of palm reading is uncertain, but may have originated in India in Hindu astrology, and spread to China, Tibet, Persia, Egypt and Ancient Greece, at least partly through the traditional fortune-telling practices of the Romani people. After falling into disrepute due to its associations with magic and witchcraft during the middle ages, interest in palmistry saw a […]