Thursday, May 19, 2016

How to Lose Weight, c. 1330

Tacuinum sanitatis, Biblioteca Casanatense 4182 (14th c.)
“They should eat foods of little nourishment, great bulk, and quick digestion, and often bathe before they eat… they should eat many vegetables with sharp vinegar dressings… they should exercise frequently and swiftly before eating, and tolerate hunger. They should accustom themselves to eating once a day and sleeping less, and they should drink old and fine wine…. sleeping little and in a hard bed, frequent sex, and spending time in the sun and in warm houses all make a fat body become slender.” 
Maino de' Mainieri, Regimen sanitatis
Your medieval summer weight-loss plan: sunbathing, sex, and... salad.

Friday, May 6, 2016

How to Dye Your Hair Blonde, 1650

Nicolas Arnoult, Recueil des modes de la cour de France (1687), LACMA
"How to make ones haire to become of a yellow Golden Colour. Take the rinde, or outward parings of Rhubarbe, and put them to steep in Whitewine, or clear Lye; wet a spunge or linnen cloth therein, and  anoint your haire therewith, and let them dry before the fire or sunne; the oftener you do this the sooner they will become yellow: note that before you use this, it is good to clear your head and hair from sweat, and all other filth whatsoever." 
A Brief Collection of Many Rare Secrets
Your new summer hair look: golden color, rhubarb flavor, and no filth whatsoever.

Friday, April 22, 2016

How to Stop Sneezing, 1680

Allegories of the Senses (1561), Wellcome Library
"To stay the sneezing scratch the Soles of the Feet and Palms of the Hands; rub the Eyes and Ears; smell to white Lilly, and Bath your hands in warm Water... The Phlegm that runs from the Nose like Snot is stay'd by proper Remedies for the Cure of the Brain, whereby the Spring of such Noisome Humors is dryed... use some proper Syrup to correct the ill scent of the Snot's abundance." 
The Country-Mans Physician
Allergy season self-care: foot-scratching, hand-washing, fragrant lilies, and getting rid of the #*$&@ brain snot.

Friday, April 8, 2016

How to Use Asparagus, 1568

John Gerard, The Herball (1636)

"Asparagus cooked with wine alleviates pain of the loins and kidneys, provokes urine, loosens the stomach, and frees the liver and kidneys from attacks, especially the roots and seeds. But if asparagus is used too much, it brings great harm, since it expels urine quickly, and irritates the bladder, which is bad. It is believed to incite lust… asparagus is a helpful food for a man, especially a newlywed having trouble in bed with an eager spouse: if at first he is unable to please his wife, this will allow him finally to have a sweet and loving partnership." 
Hugo Fridaevallis, De tuenda sanitate 
Ah, springtime, the season of love: the birds, the bees, the newlyweds gobbling asparagus...

Thursday, March 24, 2016

How to Use Dry Shampoo, 12th century

Luttrell Psalter, British Library Add. MS 42130, f. 63r (1325-40)
"When she combs her hair, let her have this powder. Take some dried roses, clove, nutmeg, watercress, and galangal. Let all these, powdered, be mixed with rose water. With this water let her sprinkle her hair and comb it with a comb dipped in this same water so that [her hair] will smell better. And let her make furrows in her hair and sprinkle on the above-mentioned powder, and it will smell marvelously." 
The Trotula
Running late for work? No problem – just grab a comb, raid your spice cabinet on the way out the door, and you'll be fresh and sweet as a medieval noblewoman.

Monday, March 7, 2016

How to Converse Politely, 1595

John Bulwer, Anthropometamorphosis
(1653), George Peabody Library
"It is also a fowle and unseemely thing for thee to make faces, in wrything thy visage into divers formes: or, to rub one while thy nose, another while thy forhead: or, one while to lift up thine eye browes, another while to pull them down too much, or to patter with thy lips; or, one while to thrust out thy mouth too much, another while to pul it in over-much, or to shake thy head, or to cough, unles thou be there too inforced: or to spet oft, or to scratch thy head, to picke thine eares, or to blow thy nose, or to smoothe thy face with thine hand, as if thou wouldest wype away shamefastnes from thee: to bee picking or rubbing thy neck, as if thou wert lowsie: or to clyng in thy shoulders, as some Italians use. All these are evill." 
William Fiston, The Schoole of Good Manners
 OMG stop picking thine ears and seriously what is with all the spetting?!

Monday, February 22, 2016

How to Give Up Wine, 1658

A Warning-piece to All Drunkards (1682),
Wellcome Library, London
There are many who when they have drank much Wine, that is the worst thing in the world for them, fall sick, and die of it. Now if you would refrain, and abhor Wine and strong drink... let three or four live eels, put into the Wine, stay there till they die. Let one drink of this Wine, who is given to drunkenness, and he will loath Wine, and always hate it, and will never drink it again: or if he do, he will drink but little, and with much sobriety. Another way: wash a Tortois with Wine a good while, and give one of that wine to drink privately, half a cup full every morning for three days, and you shall see a wonderful vertue.
Giambattista della Porta, Natural Magick
The sommelier recommends: a full-bodied red wine with notes of tortoise grime and a lingering aftertaste of eel death.