In Amsterdam, in the year 1775, on Sunday, the 6th of August, will be interred the body of Hermanus van Cleeff; in high old age, 104 years, shall finally this MAN be put into his grave; he was once lifeless, in dire need, but revived; and acquired after that event the nickname of Death.
Thus begins a burial announcement that found its way into the History of Medicine Collection Picture File, an assembly of posters, cartoons, engravings, and caricatures all relating to the practice of medicine. The collection is currently being arranged and described, and there are some interesting finds throughout.
In actuality there are three pieces to this funerary group, which was purchased from the Shuman family – rare book and manuscript dealers from whom Dr. Josiah Trent, surgeon and Duke Medical School faculty member, acquired most of his rich collection in medical history.
The first two items – the printed burial notice, and its English translation on University of Chicago letterhead – are intriguing enough. But the third piece captivates the imagination: a lively self-portrait of an old man with a cane, allegedly the centenarian himself, fashioned from colored paper and finished off with a real lock of white hair (ostensibly human).
The English translation to the caption under the silhouette states that “Hermanus van Kleef, nicknamed Death, has cut out his picture with his own hand, made it look like his own person, provided it with a lock of his hair. One hundred years old and lived yet four years thereafter…”
I haven’t been able to discover who Hermanus van Kleef (or Cleeff) was – he may have been an ancestor of the famous Jewish family that later founded the jewelers Van Cleef and Arpels. As I gaze at this little figure triumphantly standing his ground, I congratulate him for cheating death through this wonderful piece of self-expression!
Post contributed by Paula Jeannet Mangiafico, Senior Processing Archivist in Rubenstein Technical Services.
Search The Devil’s Tale
Tag Cloud2011acquisitions 2012acquisition 2013acquisition advertisements advertising African American history artistsbooks civilwar conservation diaries digitization documentary dorisduke dukehistory durhamhistory economists events film fullframe games Heschel holidays human rights letterhead literature longcivilrights Mad Men madmen madmenmondays medicine movediary move prep movinghom oversized photography recipes renovation researchtips rubensteinstaff scrapbooks sports students valentinesday women's history zines
The Devil’s Tale Archive
- Neville Chamberlain letters, 1881-1933.
- George Leveson-Gower Granville, Earl of Granville, letters, 1863-1866.
- Charles Gordon-Lennox, Duke of Richmond, letters and poem, 1831-1854 and undated.
- Lesbians in the Visual Arts collection, 1994-2002 and undated.
- Jim Kobs Collection of Echo Awards Materials, 1966-1997
- Knights of Pythias ceremonies of laying corner-stones and dedicating castle halls March 4, 2014
- Flowers kollektion March 4, 2014
- Flower, fruit and thorn pieces; or, the married life, death, and wedding of the advocate of the poor, Firmian Stanislaus Siebenkäs February 20, 2014
- Neueste vollständige Compositions-Schule : ein theoretisch-praktischer Leitfaden mit zahlreichen Noten-Beispielen zum Unterrichte und zur Selbstbelehrung für Candidaten der Tonsatzlehre : welche sich in diesem Bereiche auf eine gründlich-fassliche Weise und mit vieler Zeitersparniss die erforderlichen Kenntnisse erwerben wollen February 7, 2014
- Im Reiche des Sozialismus : drei Akte Vergangenes, Gegenwärtiges, Künftiges February 7, 2014