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.
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The Devil’s Tale Archive
- Louis E. Williams papers, 1951-1971 and undated. July 28, 2014
- Jean Kilbourne papers July 23, 2014
- Williamston, N.C. Civil Rights journal, 1963 November 11-20. July 22, 2014
- Theater Three Collaborative records, 1970-2014. July 22, 2014
- Ellsa Lucile Hozman travel diary, 1913 April 29-1913 August 28. July 21, 2014
- Das veränderte Russland : in welchem die ietzige verfassung des geist- und weltlichen Regiments : der Krieges-Staat zu Lande und zu Wasser, wahre Zustand der russischen Finantzen, die geöffneten Berg-Wercke, die eingeführte Academien, Künste, Manufacturen, Verordnungen, Geschäffte mit denen asiatischen Nachbaren und Vafallen, nebst der allerneuesten Nachricht von diesen Völckern : die Begebenheiten des Czaergangene, und was sich sonst merckwürdiges in Russland zugetragen, nebst verschiedenen andern bissher unbekandten Rachrichten in einem biss 1720 gehenden Journal vorgestellet werden, mit einer accuraten Land-Carte und Kupfferstichen versehen. July 17, 2014
- L'anatomie pacifique nouvelle et curieuse : conforme à la doctrine d'Hippocrate & de Galien, qui donne les moyens d'accorder les recents avec les anciens, par des experiences nouvelles, principalement touchant les actions du coeur & des poulmons July 17, 2014
- Beytrag zur Geschichte Russlands vom Jahr 1727 bis 1744 : nebst einem Anhange über die damalige Beschaffenheit des Kriegs- des Seewesens, des Handels, der Academie &c. &c. : mit Charten und Planen : aus einer franzöisischen Handschrift. July 17, 2014
- Rhyme? and reason? July 14, 2014
- Now we are six July 14, 2014
- Le vere e nove imagini de gli dei delli antichi July 29, 2014
- Emblemata D. A. Alciati : denuo ab ipso autore recognita, ac, quae desiderabantur, imaginibus locupletata July 29, 2014
- The Railway guide July 29, 2014
- Circular no. 19 July 29, 2014
- History of St. John's Episcopal Church, Macon County, North Carolina July 29, 2014