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A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities
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A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  242 ratings  ·  16 reviews
In this book of amazing oddities, Jan Bondeson explores unexpected, gruesome, and bizarre aspects of the history of medicine. He regales us with stories of spontaneous human combustion; vicious tribes of tailed men; the Two-Headed Boy of Bengal; Mary Toft, who allegedly gave birth to seventeen rabbits; and Julia Pastrana, exhibited around the world as the Ape Woman. Bondes ...more
Paperback, 250 pages
Published April 17th 1999 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1997)
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Although this book was completely different than I expected, it was still very good. This is more a historical narrative than a science book, and although it's a little more in depth than the type of book people normally read for relaxation, the subject matter was interesting enough that I had a hard time putting it down. Each chapter explores a different medical curiosity - spontaneous human combustion, or maternal impressions. It looks more at the historical instances of these claims rather th ...more
This book tells the story of many old medical conditions through a series of perspectives - folklore, politics, literary reference, documentation (trustworthy or not,) and evolving medical opinion. This combination makes for a very varied reading experience. On the positive side, the book is full of fascinating anecdotes and is very effective at recounting of how understanding of conditions changed between the era of folklore to modern medical science. On the other hand, portions of the book are ...more
Anthrodiva Stommen
The illustrations are the best part. I just imagine coming across some of these woodcuts and thinking, WTF?

On Homo Cornutus

"Throughout his long life, Thomas Bartholin kept a sharp lookout for horned human beings...Bartholin's work inspired the German savant Georg Franck to write the earliest treatise entirely devoted to human horns. His thirty-one page Tractatus Phililogico-Medicus de Cornutis, published in Heidelberg in 1676, promised to cover all possible theological, legal, philosophical, his
Nicole Pamelia
Case studies of a lot of the "freak show" malformities, or conditions that were prevalent in history and the folklore and cultural beliefs around them. This does get into the genetics a bit, but the majority of each chapter describes famous cases, beliefs of the time, and possible origins for phenomenon like spontaneous combustion, maternal impressions, etc.
I found it really exhaustive. Didn't just tell about being buried alive, but every instance to ever occur in the lit. My favorite parts were on Julian pastrana and the Hunterian museum
This book was definitely entertaining, and the author is clearly writing about topics that fascinate him. The writing style made me a bit batty at times, as he presents the topic, gives a slew of examples, then describes how it was debunked or finally correctly explained. And then he starts all over again. Each segment cycles through at least twice, which made it hard to read (for me, at least.)

However, I enjoyed learning the etymology of "blowing smoke up one's ass", was amazed at how easy it w
I added this book to my "read" list, even though I didn't finish it. I made a supremely valiant effort, though. I wanted to like it, I really did, wanted to want to read it in its entirety, but there were just so many case histories and time periods and misdirected medical men that it made my head swim and my thoughts wander. Also the author writes in a sort of drily humorous, pedantic way which is not to my tastes. I'll give it three stars for effort, sheer research and potential to be great.
It was an average book..nothing to exciting...I wanted more and I didn't care to much about the extra info. on when these "curiousities" first appeared in literature (not medical literature). In my opinion the best section was the Julia pastrana section..but that information could have easily been obtained via internet.
It is a great nonfiction book. It brings to light the horrors of the past. It doesn't sugar coat things. I feel bad for Julia Pastrana and I am grateful that she finally gets a proper burial as any normal human being in 2013. The book is really worth it - especially the part about Julia Pastrana.
Thank you, Jan Bondeson. You risk looking like a weirdo (so many prints in your private collection) to bring us giants, a bearded lady, stomach-dwelling snakes, etc. Repelled and fascinated at the same time; we are no different from the gawkers of yore.
Oscar Illescas
A veces repetitivo, pero siempre fascinante. El autor describe, narra y analiza hechos históricos partiendo desde un punto, que aunque no neutral, es honesto y justo (y eso lo hace mejor).
a woman gives birth to seventeen rabbits! how picturesque! a cow expells 40 puppies! adorable!
The story of Julia Pastrana is worth the price of the book alone. The rest is gravy.
Regina Tabor
Interesting look at birth deformities and the fuss people made over them.
Although a tad repetitive at times, this book was delightful.
Para los morbosos y los sedientos de milagros
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Outside of his career in medicine, he has written several nonfiction books on a variety of topics, such as medical anomalies and unsolved murder mysteries.

Bondeson is the biographer of a predecessor of Jack the Ripper, the London Monster, who stabbed fifty women in the buttocks, of Edward 'the Boy' Jones, who stalked Queen Victoria and stole her underwear, and Greyfriars Bobby, a Scottish terrier
More about Jan Bondeson...
Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear The Two-Headed Boy, and Other Medical Marvels The Great Pretenders: The True Stories Behind Famous Historical Mysteries The London Monster: A Sanguinary Tale Feejee Mermaid and Other Essays in Natural and Unnatural History

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