- Museum number
The animal vomited by Mr Lund, the baker. 1682
Etching, printed on red-tinted paper
- Production date
Height: 73 millimetres
Width: 91 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Text from Antony Griffiths, The Print in Stuart Britain', BM 1998, cat.194)
On 21 March 1682, Dr. Martin Lister of York, a Fellow of the Royal Society, wrote a letter to Robert Hooke describing the incident in detail and noted: 'What this creature is, I dare scarce venture ...for that it is not like anything I ever yet saw in Nature'. Lister's letter was read to a meeting of the Royal Society on 29 March 1682 (see T. Birch, 'The History of the Royal Society', London 1757, IV, p.138) and then published in Hooke's 'Philosophical Collections', no.6, March 1682, p.164, where it was accompanied by an unsigned plate that includes an exact reverse copy of the figure from Place's etching. The findings prompted a debate on the nature of the monster and the hypothesis that the baker had swallowed a frog or toad embryo which had thrived in his stomach where it had been transformed into the unusual shape depicted. The smaller figure was described as a fragment - probably the head - of another pond creature.
While this explanation seems absurd today, the deliberations show a high level of sophistication. Lister took care to show that he had accounted for the effect of the acids in the stomach ('concoction' in his terms), noting that worms had been regularly observed to survive in the body. The case shows the way in which thinking about such events was changing. Lund thought the animal a monster or a witch, Lister made it the subject for a learned article. Hans Sloane, who was for many years the President of the Royal Society, bound together in his library any fly-sheets he came across advertising such prodigies (it is now N.Tab.2026/25). Most of them were shown in fairs for an admission fee, but it is interesting how often the sheet points out that the freak had been seen by Sloane and the Royal Family, as if to confer respectability on the curiosity. In the sixteenth century they would have been interpreted as portents, and been the subject of broadsheets.
The rapidity with which the account of the event was recorded and published is noteworthy. Lister's letter was presented to the Royal Society barely two weeks after the incident, presumably accompanied by Place's etching. Even assuming some slippage in the appearance of the March number of 'Philosophical Collections', it is likely that it appeared within a month of the event.
The 'Philosophical Collections' were edited by Robert Hooke and published during the period 1680-1682 when the quasi-official publication of the Royal Society, the 'Philosophical Transactions', did not appear. Seven numbers were published of Hooke's substitute with the approval of the Council of the Royal Society. The printer was Richard Chiswell, the Society's official printer.
(Supplementary information from Dr Anna Marie Roos, 2011)
The original drawing by Francis Place for Lister's 'An Account of a Monstrous Animal cast out of the Stomach by Vomit,' has been found by Dr Roos in the Letter Book of the Royal Society, Original Letters, Volume 8, f.183r. LBO/8.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2000 Jan-Mar, Ipswich, Christchurch Mansion, Printmaking in Stuart Britain
2000 May-Jul, Bristol, City Mus and AG, Printmaking in Stuart Britain
2000 Oct-Dec, Lancaster, Peter Scott Gallery, Printmaking in Stuart Britain
2000/1 Dec-Feb, Banff, Duff House, Printmaking in Stuart Britain
2001 Feb-May, Cardiff, National Mus, Printmaking in Stuart Britain
2013-2014, May-Jan, Margate Turner & Norwich Castle, Curiosity
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number