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Phrenological head and penholder, England, 1829-1850

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Designed as a penholder, this phrenological head has the ‘organs’ of the brain marked out in black. Phrenologists believed that different parts, or ‘organs’, of the brain had different qualities. They further believed that an individual’s personality could be ‘read’ from the lumps and bumps in the skull. From this head, the area at the front of the forehead represents intellectual properties. It was made by Frederick Bridges, a phrenologist based in Liverpool, England from 1829 to 1850.

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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.

Glossary: phrenological head

A representation of a human head, on which the phrenological faculties are illustrated. Phrenologists believed that one could tell personality traits by examining the bumps of the skull. The practice is now regarded as a pseudo-science.