A Not Exactly Romantic History of St. Valentine’s Day

In 1537, King Henry VIII, already divorced from his first wife, severed from his second (as she was rather tragically severed from her head), and recently married to his third, declared Valentine’s Day an official holiday in his realm. If that doesn’t make you believe in true love, nothing will.

heads will roll

undated photo

Just Another Photo of Edwardian Women in Drag

This photo was found at Speedy’s Treasures in Scottville, MI. When I realized what I was looking at, I knew I had to have it. The back is stamped “H.J.Hansen Photography.” Naturally I googled. (My favorite verb, barring the four-letter variety, of course.) This is all I found out so far: Another response came from Barbara […]

Saint Erasm and Saint Maurice

Seeing All of Us: Diversity in European History 2

In 2012, while researching a historical novel, I came across Imtiaz Habib’s book, Black Lives in the English Archives, 1500-1677. I’ve wanted to blog about it for awhile, then yesterday I saw this article: “The Missing Tudors: black people in 16th century England” posted at BBC History Magazine’s website, historyextra.com. There have been discussions and blogs about this […]

The Winchester Austen 1

I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest Jane Austen fan in the world (shocking to say these days, I know) but my love of literature, history, feminist icons, and books in general means I have an interest in and deep respect for her work. I read Pride and Prejudice during my classics phase as a teenager […]


john hancock commonplace booke 1687

Commonplace Books, Then and Now 1

When paper became more accessible in the 15th and 16th centuries, people began keeping little books full of recipes, psalms, quotes, and prose called commonplace books, in an attempt to organize and filter what they felt was a barrage of information raining down upon them after the introduction of the printing press. (Imagine what they’d […]

Meta Reading

As soon as I stumbled upon a picture of Anne of Green Gables reading Anne of Green Gables, I knew I had to find more pictures of actors as fictional characters reading the book that inspired the film they were starring in. (That was a mouthful!) Here’s what I came up with so far: It turns out […]

Katherine Hepburn on the set of "Sylvia Scarlett", based on the book "The Early Life and Adventures of Sylvia Scarlett" by Compton MacKenzie.

shakespeare open folio

The Bard’s World Tour

The first copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio came off the press in early November of 1623. To honor the 390th birthday of one of the most coveted books of all time, here is a fictionalized (but true!) account of the journey two of them took, from the printer’s shop to contemporary guarded display.

The Amazing Life of Marie-Anne Lenormand, Cartomancienne Extraordinaire

“She remembers,” writes one who was much in communication with her between the years 1811 and 1813, “having a singular power of observation and imagination since she was seven years old, and an expression she often uses, in reference to that period of her life, is — I was a waking somnambulist.” If you have ever […]

lenormand reading

Watkin’s Ale 1

Saw this posted at The Toast this morning. “Watkin’s Ale”, a very bawdy Elizabethan ballad. Definitely NSFW in the 16th century, though probably fine in the 21st, since nobody around you will know what it’s about. Think of it as the Tudor version of Lil Jon’s “Get Low”.