Friday, May 31, 2013

How to Get Strong, 1884

"To Obtain a Good Biceps. Mounting a ladder or a rope hand-over-hand; lifting any weight in front of you, whether a feather or a barrel of sugar... pulling downward on a rope, as in hauling up a sail; hammering-- in short, anything which bends the elbow and draws the hand in toward the shoulder, takes the biceps muscle; and, if the work is vigorous and persisted in, this muscle will ere long become strong and well-shaped."

           William Blaikie, How to Get Strong and How to Stay So (1884)

After all that rope climbing, sugar-barrel lifting, and sail hauling, you'll not only have the desired guns, but you'll also be ready for a career as a swashbuckling pirate. Though you may just want to lounge shirtless and practice your come-hither gaze (Fig. 1; Fig. 2). 


Thursday, May 30, 2013

How to Grow a Beard, 1539

"Dear Past, Your discussion of facial hair is intriguing, but I am not sure that I can grow such an excellent beard. Can you help? Sincerely, Wanting to Woo with Whiskers." 

Try this: 
"To make hair and beard grow. Take honeybees in quantity and dry them in a basket by the fire, then make a powder of them, which you thin out with olive oil, and with this ointment, dab several times the place where you would like to have hair, and you will see miracles." 
          Traicté nouveau, intitulé, bastiment de receptes (1539)

Know what's even better than a beard? A beard made of bees. Ladies will go wild.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How to Blow Your Nose, 1616

Francesco Salviati, "Portrait of a Man,"
Metropolitan Museum of Art

"Blowing the nose. We must not blow our nose too lowde, nor open the hand-chercher at all to shewe any nasty filthinesse, nor lay it to the cuppe where another meanes to drinke..."
 Thomas Gainsford (?), The Rich Cabinet (1616)

Among the smart ideas introduced by the renaissance was the recommendation to not smear your snot on anyone else's drinking glass. Best practices, folks! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How to Improve Memory, 1630

"Late Suppers, the too much use of Tobacco, meates that ingender grosse humors, too much woman, too much surfetting and costly fulnesse; all bad for Memory, ill for the purse, and worse for the health..." 
 William Basse, A Helpe to Memory and Discourse (1630) 
You heard it from William Basse: the grosse humors will really mess with your memory parts (for the record, that would be "in the backe part of the Braine").

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How to Make Waffles, 1714

"The Right Dutch-Wafer. Take four Eggs, and beat them very well, then take a good spoonful of fine Sugar, one Nutmeg grated, a pint of Cream, and a pound of Flower, a pound of Butter melted, two or three spoonfuls of Rose-water, and two good spoonfuls of Yeast; mix all well together, and bake them in your Wafer-tongs on the Fire. For the Sauce, take grated Cinnamon, Sack, and melted Butter, sweeten'd to your Taste." 
A Collection of Above Three Hundred Receipts in Cookery, Physick and Surgery; for the Use of All Good Wives, Tender Mothers, and Careful Nurses (1714)
The waffle of All Good Wives, Tender Mothers, and Careful Nurses. Leave cheap imitations to the wicked wives, malicious mothers, and negligent nurses, and ready the Wafer-tongs! 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

How to Practice Your Side Eye, 1913

"The muscles of the eyes may be strengthened by slowly moving the orbs from side to side and also by bending the head a little forward and rolling them up and down. One does not want to practise this too many times; the eyes need to be stimulated, not fatigued."

          Marie Montaigne, How to Be Beautiful (1913) 

One does not want to practice this in public, either. Train those orbs in the comfort of your own boudoir before you give the world the side eye. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

How to Please Italian Gentlemen, ca. 1309

Tacuinum sanitatis Casanatense

"Once I was in Venice. We saw a beautiful woman. One of us asked: 'What do you think of that lady?' One replied: 'I would like her if she did not laugh.' Another said: 'Because of that I like her more.' A third answered: 'I would like her best if she could laugh but hide her missing tooth.' I avoid mentioning her name so as not to insult this lady."

          Francesco da Barberino, 

          Reggimento e costumi di 
          donna (ca. 1309)

Oh, that jolly Venetian gal! I bet she lost the tooth in an altercation with an Italian gentleman. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

How to Make a Dog Do Chores, 1910

"This sketch shows an arrangement for making use of the dog for carrying water. It simply consists of a wheel 8 feet in diameter and 18 inches wide, with room enough inside for the dog to walk around, where he acts as a tread power, which causes the pump to revolve. In southern California there are a number of these dog-power pumps, which cost less than $15. A good-sized dog can easily earn his living in an arrangement of this kind." 

          Rolfe Cobleigh, Handy Farm Devices and How to Make Them (1910)

Evidently SoCal was the dog-pump capital of the US in 1910. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How to Woo with Whiskers, 1839

“Although large Beards were not favoured by ladies, yet a well dressed one was less objectionable. A modern work (without giving any authority) mentions that a fine black whisker elegantly turned up was a mark of dignity with the fair sex.”  
John Adey Repton, Some Account of the Beard and the Moustachio (1839)
This interesting little history of the beard and the "moustachio" offers some tips for the well-dressed whisker. All I have to say is that #12 is a mighty fine muzzle mane. 

How to Stop Bleeding, 1664

“To Stench a Bleeding Wound: Lay hogs Dung, hot from the Hog, to the Bleeding Wound.”  
Samuel Strangehopes, A Book of Knowledge in Three Parts (166[4])
Stench, indeed.

How to Be Plump, 1878

“Whatever may be the proper explanation, the presence of sweets very much aids in the fattening process… Activity of mind or body if excessive prevents fattening. Sufficient rest must be secured. Persons who want to get and keep plump, must give the system time to recruit. They should retire about 10 P. M. and enjoy sleep until 6 or 7 A. M.”
 T. C. Duncan, How to Be Plump (1878)
Physician, medical writer, and paunch-promoter T. C. Duncan scorns the thin as “restless and irritable in mind, rarely contented, never quiet” and offers advice for those aspiring to a fluffier form.

How to Catch Flies, ca. 1400

“If you have a room or floor in your dwelling infested with flies, take little sprigs of fern, tie them together with threads like tassels, hang them up, and all the flies will settle on them in the evening. Then take down the tassels and throw them outside… otherwise, tie a linen stocking to the bottom of a pierced pot and set the pot in the place where the flies gather and smear the inside with honey, or apples, or pears. When it is full of flies, place a platter over the opening, then shake it.”  
Le Ménagier de Paris (ca. 1400)
These flycatching remedies are from a handbook ostensibly written by a husband offering helpful advice to his teenaged wife. And, let’s face it: who cares whether they work for catching flies? Ladies, just imagine how impressed a husband would be by your decorative fern-tassels and honey-smeared socks.