A Parliament of Monsters
The first chapter introduces the key concepts of the book by discussing one particular specimen (an ulcerated oesophagus). It goes on to outline the spectrum of individuals and institutions that collected and displayed human remains in nineteenth-century Britain: private anatomy schools, universities, hospital museums, royal colleges, pathological societies, and commercial anatomy exhibitions, as exemplified by the contrast between Bartholomew Fair (where Wordsworth observed ‘a parliament of monsters’) and St Bartholomew's Hospital (that ‘Valhalla of spoils snatched from the dead, the dying, the living, and those who have never been born’). It lays out the early modern pre-history of the collections from cabinets of curiosity to Enlightenment London, especially the key collections of the brothers John and William Hunter.
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