Skull illustrated in Samuel George Morton’s Crania Americana [8]. The 78 lithographs in Crania Americana set new standards for accuracy in anatomical. The 78 lithographs in Crania Americana set new standards for accuracy in anatomical illustration, as they were drawn carefully to scale and rechecked for. His meeting with Brooks was chronicled in his book “Crania Americana; or, A comparative view of the skulls of various aboriginal nations of North and South.

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In the course of advocating for the freedom of African slaves, men like Prichard and Combe allowed scientific racism to flourish.

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A neat bullet hole in the side of a skull. Published in Philadelphia inMorton divided mankind into five races before linking the character of each race to skull configuration.

Later in the nineteenth century, other European scholars produced imitations with titles including Crania Britannica and Aemricana Germanica. James Poskett, from the Department of History and Philosophy of Crniais working to uncover how Crania Americana became so influential, not only in the United States, but in Europe and beyond.

He has also curated a new exhibition for readers at the Whipple Library charting this amerocana. The showpiece is undoubtedly a copy of Crania Americana itself. The book is extremely rare. Only copies were ever printed with amfricana more than 60 being sent outside of the United States. Morton had to work hard to convince his peers across the Atlantic that Crania Americana should be taken seriously. The illustrations, now on display at the Whipple Library helped Morton establish his reputation in Europe.


Reviewers in Britain were astounded by the eerie, life-like quality of the skulls. He first drew each image onto a limestone block in wax before fixing, inking and printing. Previously, such impressive images could only be found in European scientific metropolises such as Paris and Edinburgh.

The Whipple Library exhibition also features a series of recently-discovered loose plates, printed to promote Crania Americana in Britain.

Morton sent early copies of his illustrations to men of science in Zmericana. This allowed him to garner support prior to the arrival of the finished volume. Darwin was there in the crowd.

Whilst men like Prichard and Darwin found it easy to access Crania Americana, not everyone was so fortunate. Particularly in Europe, where import duties inflated the price even further, Crania Americana could only be found in the most prestigious amerucana.

In Britain, phrenologists such as George Combe promoted Crania Americana in cheap periodicals, some of which were available for just a couple of pence. Still, periodicals aimed at female readers once again ensured his ideas reached a wider audience. Crania Americana was published just as the remaining Shawnee peoples of Ohio were amercana relocated west of the Mississippi River.


People often associate Crania Americana with slavery. But, according to Poskett, this is a mistake. And in Europe, the majority of readers were abolitionists. The phrenologist Combe was an antislavery man, as was Prichard. It was an americaan logic: In real life it was just as likely to be an abolitionist.

The Crania Americana exhibition at the Whipple is a stark reminder of this unsettling history. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.


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