“The proper study of mankind is man”*…
British engraver and publisher Valentine Green was one of the most accomplished mezzotint engravers in the later 18th and early 19th centuries in England. During his career he produced over four hundred plates after portraits by Reynolds, Romney, and other British artists, and after pictures by Van Dyck, Rubens, Murillo, and other old masters. But on occasion Green turned his hand to more personal projects- like the “abridgment” of Pope’s An Essay on Man, above.
Alexander Pope’s 1734 poem An Essay on Man, a philosophical poem using rationality to try and justify God’s ways to man. Pope’s poem was a particular favorite among the top Enlightenment thinkers of the time, including Kant, Rousseau and Voltaire, the latter[most] calling it “the most beautiful, the most useful, the most sublime didactic poem ever written in any language” (though he would later satirize Pope’s optimism in Candide).
Read more– and see another example of Green’s meditation on ephemerality and vanity– in “Life and Death Contrasted (ca.1770)”
* Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man, Epistle II
As we wonder what ever happened to good old Yorick, we might send memorable birthday greetings to Aloysius “Alois” Alzheimer; he was born on this date in 1864. A psychiatrist and neuropathologist, he was the first to recognize the condition he called “pre-senile dementia”– a progressive, degenerative disorder that begins with short-term memory loss– and to identify the amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles that cause (or at least accompany) it. At the suggestion of his friend and collaborator Emil Kraepelin, the condition was re-named “Alzheimer’s Disease.”