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Poster advertising lectures on phrenology, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, England, 1851

Lectures by Mr Droffnore on the subject of phrenology were given free of charge at the Mechanics Institute in Towbridge, Wiltshire, England. Mechanics Institutes were set up to give education to the working classes, especially in technical subjects. Lectures and exhibitions often came with the tagline ‘Know thyself’. Phrenology, which involved ‘reading’ the lumps and bumps of someone’s skull and thus the underlying brain, was believed to give an indication of a person’s character, fitting with the ‘Know thyself’ tag line. Phrenology was hugely popular in the 1800s with over two hundred phrenologists active in Britain in the first half of the century. But it quickly became a source of controversy as far as the medical profession were concerned. The British phrenological society was disbanded in 1967.

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Glossary: poster

Notice, usually printed on paper, intended to be posted to advertise, promote, or publicise an activity, cause, product, or service; also, decorative, mass-produced prints intended for hanging.

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.