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Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius

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Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius Cover

ISBN13: 9781932961867
ISBN10: 1932961860
Condition:
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The after-death stories of Franz Joseph Haydn, Ludwig Beethoven, Swedenborg, Sir Thomas Browne and many others have never before been told in such detail and vividness.

Fully illustrated with some surprising images, this is a fascinating and authoritative history of ideas carried along on the guilty pleasures of an anthology of real-after-life gothic tales.

Beginning dramatically with the opening of Haydn's grave in October 1820, Cranioklepty takes us on an extraordinary history of a peculiar kind of obsession. The desire to own the skulls of the famous, for study, for sale, for public (and private) display, seems to be instinctual and irresistible in some people. The rise of phrenology at the beginning of the 19th century only fed that fascination with the belief that genius leaves its mark on the very shape of the head.

Review:

"The word 'skullduggery' finds a new meaning in Dickey's well-vetted account of those obsessed with owning the skulls of the highly talented and famous. Fiction and nonfiction writer Dickey (co-editor of Failure! Experiments in Aesthetic and Social Practices) takes the reader back to the plucky grave robbers who stole the craniums of famed composers Haydn and Beethoven, Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, artist Francisco Goya, the English doctor and philosopher Sir Thomas Browne and others to sell, study or put on public display. The skull obsession was triggered by the infamous 'Gall system,' created in the late 18th century by Franz Joseph Gall, who theorized that the bumps and dents of the skull could provide a measure of intelligence. The author not only describes the profitable trade of grave robbing, but the chemical technique of cleaning a skull, the patronage of medical schools and the complex scientific debates about whether the size and shape of skulls and brains tell us anything about human intelligence or personality. Blending science with historical drama, Dickey's book illuminates the mystery and controversy of a bizarre tradition throughout the ages. (Sept. 3)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Dickey spins these stories with a storyteller's grace and a historian's exactitude. Cranioklepty will join those books...that delve into the origins of eccentric intellectual lore, whether madness and lexicography...or inventions and visions by depressives, maniacs, and malcontents." Brooklyn Rail

Review:

"Colin Dickey...has served up a fascinating book. Well-researched, clear and concise, this book is full of interesting historical anecdotes." ForeWord Magazine

Review:

"Dickey fairly considers what motivated graveyard pilferers; generally, it was a potage of science, commemoration, and profit. Those with a taste for the macabre...will enjoy Dickey's eccentric tales."Booklist

About the Author

Colin Dickey is the co-editor of Failure! Experiments in Aesthetic and Social Practices. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Cabinet, TriQuarterly, and the Santa Monica Review. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, he now lives in Los Angeles.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Cheryl Klein, May 3, 2010 (view all comments by Cheryl Klein)
People use the phrase "dead and buried" to imply just how very over and complete a thing is. This true tale of famous composers, writers and mystics whose heads were stolen by phrenologists and their contemporaries proves that no person or subject is guaranteed eternal rest. As the poor skulls of Joseph Haydn and Emanuel Swedenborg bounce between various collectors and pseudo-scientists, Dickey paints a portrait of a unique period in history, when Enlightenment reason overlapped with relic-worship, artistic flourishings and eugenics. They were the scariest of times. They were the wackiest of times.

But unlike other "thing histories" that claim to explain the entire history of the world through, like, potatoes, Dickey doesn't try too hard to extrapolate. After all, he's telling the stories of people who thought they could determine the cause of genius by rubbing a person's head. I suspect he doesn't want to be the writerly version of a phrenologist. Instead, he does what writers do best: weave intriguing narratives, juxtapose facts and let people draw their own conclusions. One of mine was that I would like to be cremated, thank you very much.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781932961867
Author:
Dickey, Colin
Publisher:
Unbridled Books
Subject:
History - 19th Century
Subject:
Skull
Subject:
Physiology
Subject:
History of Science-General
Subject:
Historiography
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20091031
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects


Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Anatomy and Physiology
History and Social Science » Anthropology » General
History and Social Science » World History » 1650 to Present
Science and Mathematics » History of Science » General

Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius Sale Hardcover
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Product details 320 pages Unbridled Books - English 9781932961867 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "The word 'skullduggery' finds a new meaning in Dickey's well-vetted account of those obsessed with owning the skulls of the highly talented and famous. Fiction and nonfiction writer Dickey (co-editor of Failure! Experiments in Aesthetic and Social Practices) takes the reader back to the plucky grave robbers who stole the craniums of famed composers Haydn and Beethoven, Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, artist Francisco Goya, the English doctor and philosopher Sir Thomas Browne and others to sell, study or put on public display. The skull obsession was triggered by the infamous 'Gall system,' created in the late 18th century by Franz Joseph Gall, who theorized that the bumps and dents of the skull could provide a measure of intelligence. The author not only describes the profitable trade of grave robbing, but the chemical technique of cleaning a skull, the patronage of medical schools and the complex scientific debates about whether the size and shape of skulls and brains tell us anything about human intelligence or personality. Blending science with historical drama, Dickey's book illuminates the mystery and controversy of a bizarre tradition throughout the ages. (Sept. 3)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Dickey spins these stories with a storyteller's grace and a historian's exactitude. Cranioklepty will join those books...that delve into the origins of eccentric intellectual lore, whether madness and lexicography...or inventions and visions by depressives, maniacs, and malcontents."
"Review" by , "Colin Dickey...has served up a fascinating book. Well-researched, clear and concise, this book is full of interesting historical anecdotes."
"Review" by , "Dickey fairly considers what motivated graveyard pilferers; generally, it was a potage of science, commemoration, and profit. Those with a taste for the macabre...will enjoy Dickey's eccentric tales."
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