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Print showing a phrenological consulting room for servants, England, 1805-1830

This satirical print shows servants who are looking for work having the lumps and bumps of their skulls examined to determine what their character and abilities are in a practice known as phrenology. The inscription at the bottom expresses the desire for a day when phrenological tests will replace the need for references. The books of two prominent phrenologists, Franz Gall (1758-1828), the founder of phrenology, and Johann Spurzheim (1776-1832), sit on the shelves with phrenological heads, which were used for consultations. Although practitioners of phrenology took the subject seriously many others, including the majority of the medical profession, saw the practice as quackery. Certainly, the artist thought so, exaggerating the lumps and bumps of the skulls that phrenologists looked and felt for.

Object number:

1990-564

Glossary:

Glossary: print

Pictorial works produced by transferring images by means of a matrix such as a plate, block, or screen, using any of various printing processes. When emphasizing the individual printed image, use "impressions." Avoid the controversial expression "original prints," except in reference to discussions of the expression's use. If prints are neither "reproductive prints" nor "popular prints," use just "prints."

Glossary: phrenology

The study of the bumps on the outside of the skull in order to determine a person's character. It was based on the mistaken theory that the skull becomes modified according to the size of different parts of the brain.