1748 plan of New Haven, via the Beinecke Library @ Yale

The Beinecke Library has an interesting web exhibition about the American history of the Utopian dream, from the establishment of New Haven in 1638 to modern sustainable communes like Twin Oaks.

The exhibit has a comprehensive list of the most important “utopian” communities in the US1, with manuscripts and documents from the library’s collections.

Also included are short lists of Utopian and Dystopian literature from the collection2.  It’s a neat set of images and facts, if you’re interested in the subject and haven’t seen an overview of it presented in such a way.

Two nitpicks that I have, though: 1) The sentence “the goal of removal from the heart of civilization to the wilderness” in the intro text is misleading as a blanket statement – More’s original Utopia was one of social and political perfection, rather than one based on any pastoral or nature-based ideals; and 2) it would be nice if all the manuscript/ephemera page images enlarged into higher-res versions.

  1. The most well-known being, arguably, the PA Germans and the New Harmony colony.
  2. I think two titles that should have been on the Dystopian list are Lewis’ “It Can’t Happen Here” (1935) and Heinlein’s “If This Goes On-” (1940). I have to believe their exclusion is only because Beinecke does not have 1st edition copies of these books in their collection.
posted 2/10/10 at 1:58pm to Books, History · 0 replies · permalink

“An experiment to put pressure on the eye”


I tooke a bodkine gh & put it betwixt my eye & [the] bone as neare to [the] backside of my eye as I could: & pressing my eye [with the] end of it (soe as to make [the] curvature a, bcdef in my eye) there appeared severall white darke & coloured circles r, s, t, &c. Which circles were plainest when I continued to rub my eye [with the] point of [the] bodkine, but if I held my eye & [the] bodkin still, though I continued to presse my eye [with] it yet [the] circles would grow faint & often disappeare untill I removed [them] by moving my eye or [the] bodkin.

If [the] experiment were done in a light roome so [that] though my eyes were shut some light would get through their lidds There appeared a greate broade blewish darke circle outmost (as ts), & [within] that another light spot srs whose colour was much like [that] in [the] rest of [the] eye as at k. Within [which] spot appeared still another blew spot r espetially if I pressed my eye hard & [with] a small pointed bodkin. & outmost at vt appeared a verge of light.

[illustration and text From Isaac Newton’s handwritten notebook essay ‘Of Colours’, c. 1666]

I cannot even apply eyedrops without flinching, and Isaac Newton willingly stuck a bodkin1 into his eye socket and rubbed it around, just to see what would happen.

We all celebrate Newton as a genius, but if you dig a little deeper you’ll find that he was also the height of 17th century whatthefuckery.

  1. The kind of bodkin which was likely, in Newton’s time, a long and blunt needle used as a hairpin. Think of it as the equivalent of jamming a modern butter knife into your eye. Yeah.
posted 8/6/09 at 3:33pm to History, Science!, WTF? · 8 replies · permalink


Detail from shrine coffin of Pa-debehu-Aset
Egyptian, Ptolemaic period (332 BCE – 30 BCE)

posted 5/30/09 at 8:57am to Art, History, Photography · 0 replies · permalink