The National Museum collections include a liturgical vestment in form of a fragment of a chasuble dating back to the mid-17th century. The fragment is a very interesting example of rustic embroidery. As the textile was in poor condition it needed to be restored, a process which included cleaning and stitching repairs. The state of the material meant that the chasuble could not be washed, but the nature of the stains enabled local cleaning methods to be used. This involved wet cleaning with amedical aspirator and water absorption cleaning using agar in the form of a solid gel. Finally, a suitable adjustment form was created for longtermstorage and for study or exhibition.
In 2016, an Ottoman copper coin was studied by the authors in a private collection. It was reportedly found in Bohdanovce nad Trnavou (Trnava district, Slovakia). The coin was identified as the manghir struck under the Ottoman Sultan Murad III (AH 982–1003/AD 1574–1595) in Miṣr (Cairo) in AH 982/AD 1574 (in AD 1574–1595 respectively, because of the enthronement date). It is the earliest Ottoman copper issue discovered in Slovakia which was accidentally lost very likely in connection with the Ottoman raids against Hungary at the end of the 16th century. The remaining five Ottoman copper pieces found in Slovakia date back much later, to the end of the 17th century (Sulayman II, Ahmad II).
In recent science-fiction literature, we can witness a proliferation of new counterfactual narratives which take the 17th century as their point of departure. Unlike steampunk narratives, however, their aim is not to criticise the socio-political effects caused by contemporary technological development. Such authors as Neal Stephenson or Ian Tregillis, among others, are interested in revisiting the model of development in Western societies, routing around the logic of progress. Moreover, they demonstrate that modernity is but an effect of manifold contingent and indeterminate encounters of humans and nonhumans and their distinct temporalities. Even the slightest modification of their ways of being could have changed Western societies and cultures. Thus, they necessitate a rather non-anthropocentric model of counterfactuality which is not tantamount to the traditional alternative histories which depart from official narratives of the past.
By drawing on contemporary multispecies ethnography, I put forward a new understanding of counter-factuality which aims to reveal multiple entangled human and nonhuman stories already embedded in the seemingly unified history of the West. In this context, the concept of “polyphonic assemblage” (Lowenhaupt-Tsing) is employed to conceptualize the contingent and open-ended encounters of human and nonhuman historical actors which cut across different discourses and practices. I analyse Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle to show the entangled stories of humans and nonhumans in 17th century sciences, hardly present in traditional historiographies. In particular, Stephenson’s depiction of quicksilver and coffeehouse as nonhuman historical actors is scrutinized to show their vital role in the production of knowledge at the dawn of modernity.
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