“resurrectionist n (14c) 1 an exhumer and stealer of corpses; a resurrection man 2 one who revives or brings to light again”
Title: The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black
Author: E.B. Hudspeth
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication date: May 21st 2013
Page Count: 208 pages
Age Rating: YA and up (strong depictions of blood, gore, and body horror)
How I got my hot little hands on it: Received a copy to review
Publisher’s page: The Resurrectionist
Philadelphia. The late 1870s. A city of cobblestone sidewalks and horse-drawn carriages. Home to the famous anatomist and surgeon Dr. Spencer Black. The son of a “resurrectionist” (aka grave robber), Dr. Black studied at Philadelphia’s esteemed Academy of Medicine, where he develops an unconventional hypothesis: What if the world’s most celebrated mythological beasts—mermaids, minotaurs, and satyrs— were in fact the evolutionary ancestors of humankind?
The Resurrectionist offers two extraordinary books in one. The first is a fictional biography of Dr. Spencer Black, from his humble beginnings to the mysterious disappearance at the end of his life. The second book is Black’s magnum opus: The Codex Extinct Animalia, a Gray’s Anatomy for mythological beasts—dragons, centaurs, Pegasus, Cerberus—all rendered in meticulously detailed black-and-white anatomical illustrations. You need only look at these images to realize they are the work of a madman. The Resurrectionist tells his story.
The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black is a book told in two parts; the first half is a fictional biography of Dr. Spencer Black, the second is a series of illustrations attributed to the doctor. When I picked up the book, the first thing I did was leaf through the illustrations in the back. I was immediately struck by how well-done and detailed they were and became fascinated with the combination of mythological creature anatomy and medical science – little did I know at the time, but after finishing the fictional biography part of the book, I would never look at those images the same again.
The fictional biography part of The Resurrectionist is only about 65 pages long, and some of those pages are taken up with full page illustrations and pictures as well, but those 65 pages were quite enough to take the reader through the life and times of Dr. Spencer Black, a once brilliant surgeon turned horrific mad scientist. The styling of the tale, using a dry documentary type voice, gentlemanly letters, and diary fragments, really allows the horror to creep up ever so slowly. By the time one realizes the depth of depravity the good doctor has reached in his slowly growing madness, it’s too late to turn away – you know too much and you must see it through to the end. And then the reader, having learned the terrible truth, comes to the illustrations in The Codex Extinct Animalia. After reading the biography, the images take on a whole new meaning, increasing the horror on an even more visceral level – especially the last section.
This book was fantastic. I have the hardback edition and it’s gorgeous (which, when combined with the macabre tale within, only adds to the book’s appeal). The illustrations really are a thing of (disturbing) beauty all by themselves and all together it’s the kind of book that begs to be shown to others, be it a place of prominence on a bookshelf or as a conversation piece on a coffee table. I’m actually really squeamish about body horror and gore, but the build is so subtle here, so well done, that I found myself enthralled despite myself. If you enjoy gothic Victorian horror, or horror of any kind actually, you need to get your hands on a copy of this book.
The thing that made The Resurrectionist such a great book for me was its restrained horror vibe even in the face of shocking, ghastly events. Raven’s Brew Coffee Resurrection Blend is likewise made into something special by utilizing the art of understatement in this smooth, mellow blend with very subtle spiced wine and floral notes.