The Lion of Gripsholm Castle

Gripsholm Castle in Sweden
Gripsholm Castle in Sweden
iStock.com/AYImages

Swedish blogger Ulrika Good posted a story about a king and his lion that captured the internet, and turned a Swedish meme into an international sensation. She later put up an English version to replace the rough Google translation many were using. King Frederik I of Sweden was given gifts from the Bey  of Algiers in 1731. These included a lion, another wildcat, three hyenas, and a freed slave who became the animals' keeper. The creatures lived out their lives at Djurgården, the Royal Game Park.

Quite a few years after the lion died, some of its remains were sent to a taxidermist to be mounted. All that was left was the pelt and some bones. The taxidermist was not at all familiar with this animal called a lion. So he did the best he could with what he had. There's always the possibility that alcohol was involved.

The Warner Brothers School of Taxidermy did not exist in the 1700s, but many have pointed out how the lion's face resembles a cartoon. Good compared it with the dog Dug from the Pixar movie Up! Others thought it resembled Snagglepuss.

King Frederik's lion is on display to this day at Gripsholm Castle, a former royal residence and now a museum in Mariefred, Södermanland, Sweden. Some have speculated that the taxidermist may have used heraldic lion images as a guide, like the carved lion at Gripsholm Castle shown here. That would at least explain the tongue.

Good also pointed us to the lion's Facebook fan page, where you'll find a wonderful collection of tribute images. The lion of Gripsholm Castle has found a home anywhere lions exist in pop culture.

If you ever find yourself in Sweden with time on your hands, you can still see the lion at Gripsholm Castle which is open most afternoons. However, photography is not allowed.

A 17th-Century Book With a Hidden Compartment for Poison Is Selling for $11,000

Abebooks
Abebooks

Most rare books are noteworthy for their illustrations or prose. But there's something different hiding between the covers of a folio currently for sale for $11,000 on AbeBooks: The book acts as a miniature apothecary cabinet with spaces for storing jars of poison.

The secret storage box masquerading as a manuscript was likely assembled sometime in the 19th century, Atlas Obscura reports. It uses the leather binding of Sebastião Barradas's Opera omnia, vol. III—a theology text from the mid-17th century—as its shell. Two hundred years or so after the original book was published, someone pasted together the pages and hollowed them out to make room for a discreet apothecary lab. A shelf holds four glass bottles measuring 10 centimeters high. Tiny drawers are labeled with the names of poisonous plants—such as hemlock, foxglove, and Devil's snare—in German, suggesting the book safe was crafted in Germany. On the inside of the front cover, a memento mori illustration depicts two skeletons above the Latin Bible quote "Statutum est hominibus semel mori," which means, "All men are destined to die once."

The Vienna-based antique bookseller INLIBRIS is selling the oddity through Abebooks. The sellers don't know the full backstory of the object, but they suspect it's not as dark as the skulls and poison labels suggest. Rather than being an authentic lab used by a poisoner, the book was likely made as a gag item.

The book may have been intended as a hoax, but that doesn't mean it can't be used as hidden storage today—ideally for something other than poison. Curio collectors can purchase the item for $10,924.51.

Book with secret compartment.
Abebooks

Secret compartment with bottles in book.
Abebooks

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Cheese Made from Celebrities' Microbes Is On View at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum

iStock/bhofack2
iStock/bhofack2

London's Victoria & Albert Museum is home to such artifacts as ancient Chinese ceramics, notebooks belonging to Leonardo da Vinci, and Alexander McQueen's evening dresses—all objects you might expect to see in a world-famous museum. However, the cultural significance of the selection of cheeses now on display at the museum is less obvious. The edible items, part of a new exhibition called FOOD: Bigger than the Plate, were cultured from human bacteria swabbed from celebrities.

Though most diners may prefer not to think about it, bacteria is an essential ingredient in many popular foods. Beer, bread, chocolate, and cheese all depend on microbes for their signature flavors. Scientists took this ick factor one step further by sourcing bacteria from the human body to make cheese for the new exhibit.

Smell researcher Sissel Tolaas and biologist/artist Christina Agapakis first conceived their human bacteria cheese project, titled Selfmade, in 2013. When a chef and team of scientists recreated it for the Victoria & Albert Museum, they found famous figures to donate their germs. Blur bassist Alex James, chef Heston Blumenthal, rapper Professor Green, Madness frontman Suggs, and The Great British Baking Show contestant Ruby Tandoh all signed up for the project.

A display of the human-microbe cheese at Victoria & Albert museum
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Once the celebrities' noses, armpits, and belly buttons were swabbed, their microbiome samples were used to separate milk into curds and whey. The curds were then pressed into a variety of cheeses: James's swab was used to make Cheshire cheese; Blumenthal's, comté; Professor Green's, mozzarella; Suggs's, cheddar; Tandoh's, stilton.

The cheeses are being sequenced in the lab to determine if they're safe for human consumption. But even if they don't contain any harmful bacteria, they won't be served on anyone's cheese plates. Instead. they're being kept in a refrigerated display at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Museum-goers can catch the cheeses and the rest of the items spotlighted in FOOD: Bigger Than the Plate from now through October 20, 2019.

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