Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How to Be a Novelist, 1901

"Most authors indulge in little eccentricities when working, and, if the time should ever come that your name is brought before the public notice, it would be advisable to develop some whimsical habit so as to be prepared for the interviewer, who is sure to ask whether you have one. To push your pen through your hair during creative moments would be a good plan; it would reveal a line of baldness where you had furrowed the hair off, and afford ocular proof to all and sundry that you possessed a genuine eccentricity. Or if you prefer a habit still more bizarre, you might put a hammock in a tree, and always write your most exciting scenes during a rain-storm, and under the shelter of a dripping umbrella."

How to Write a Novel: A Practical Guide to the Art of Fiction

Characters? Check. Plot? Check. Charmingly grotesque neurosis? Check.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

How to Have Beautiful Arms, 1896

"Beautiful arms are a powerful weapon in the armory of beauty; but though most women appreciate to the full the charm of this possession, the fact remains that in America undeveloped arms are the rule, and rounded, dimpled symmetry the exception. Lately, however, the gymnasium is producing charming arms. Exercise is essential to the development of the arms: exercise, that is, of the arms themselves. Gymnastic exercises that bring the muscles of these into play should be, as far as possible, encouraged in girls, as tending not only to their improvement in this particular, but as being beneficial to the general health."

Maud C. Cooke, Social Etiquette

Finally, the secret of powerful and dimpled arm perfection: go to the gymnasium and exercise the arms themselves. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

How to Make Turnip Wine, 1796

"To make Turnip Wine. Take a good many turnips, pare, slice, and put them in a cyder-press, and press out all the juice very well; to every gallon of juice have three pounds of lump-sugar, have a vessel ready just big enough to hold the juice, put your sugar into a vessel, and also to every gallon of juice half a pint of brandy; pour in the juice, and lay something over the bung for a week, to see if it works; if it does, you must not bung it down till it has done working: then stop it close for three months, and draw it off in another vessel. When it is fine, bottle it off."
Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy

When will your turnip wine taste fine? Maybe right after you've downed the last bottle of non-turnip wine.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How to Entertain a Lady, 1883

"On all occasions when a number of people convene together, whether indoors or out, the laws of courtesy should be obeyed. It is the duty of the gentlemen to be ever attentive to the ladies. If it be a picnic, the gentlemen will carry the luncheon, erect the swings, construct the tables, bring the water, provide the fuel for boiling the tea, etc. On the fishing excursion they will furnish the tackle, bait the hooks, row the boats, carry the fish, and furnish comfortable seats for the ladies. In gathering nuts, they will climb the trees, do the shaking, carry the nuts, and assist the ladies across the streams and over the fences."
Thomas E. Hill, Hill's Manual of Social and Business Forms
Attention, gentlemen: it's not enough to hold the door for the lady. You must also be prepared to construct an alfresco playground, transport trout, and scale a nut tree at any moment. This is the law of courtesy. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

How to Disclose Your Relationship Status, 1890

 "If a gentleman wants a wife, he wears a ring on the first finger of the left hand; if he is engaged, he wears it on the second finger; if married on the third; and on the fourth if he never intends to be married. When a lady is not engaged, she wears a hoop or diamond on her first finger; if engaged, on the second; if married, on the third; and on the fourth if she intends to die unmarried."
The Mystery of Love, Courtship, and Marriage Explained
And a diamond thumb ring is universal language for "it's complicated."

Monday, November 10, 2014

How to Grow Facial Hair, 1658

"Amongst those things that will make ones beard grow, and are easy to be had, I reckon Honey, fresh Butter without Salt, the juyce of a red Onion... Badgers grease, called Das, Bears, Lions, Grease, Bryony-roots, Beets, Radish, Pepperwort, white Lilies, Flour-de-luce: a liniment may be made of these, for the chin wet with these, first brings forth a tender down, after that a thick and long beard, which that it may not grow white too soon, must be watered rather with cold water that hath a little wine mingled with it, if we desire to adorn it." 
Levinus Lemnius, The Touchstone of Complexions
The path to bearded bliss is long, tortuous, and kind of smelly. Much like the beard itself.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How to Cure a Nosebleed, 1561

Ortus Sanitatis (1499)
"Beat egges shales to pouder and syft them through a linnen cloth and blewe them into his nose: if the shales were of egges whereout yonge chickens are hatched, it were so much the better. Or els take the dounge of an asse, mixe the same wyth vinegre, and holde the same at his nose. Lykewyse doth the dounge of a Sowe or Swyne that hath eaten grasse.” 
Hieronymus Brunschwig,  A Most Excellent and Perfecte Homish Apothecarye
A handy quiz for identifying effective nosebleed remedies:
1. Did it come out of a farm animal?
2. Did a farm animal come out of it?
If you answered "yes" to one or both of these questions, go ahead and apply it to your nose.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How to Prevent Pregnancy, c. 1260

British Library Sloane MS 75, f. 87r
"A weasel placed on a scorpion bite helps greatly... if its heel is taken from it while it still lives and is placed on a woman, she will not get pregnant as long as it is there." 
Albertus Magnus, De animalibus
As if you needed another reason to keep a live weasel in your bedroom.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How to Enchant Your Lover, c. 1470

BL Stowe 17 f. 143
"When a woman wants to be well loved by her husband or her lover, she must give him catnip to eat: he will be so much in love with her that he will not rest unless she is close to him."

The Distaff Gospels

Even if this man-enchanting trick doesn't work out for some reason, you'll still be accompanied by a devoted band of cats.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How to Maintain Facial Hair, 1609

John Bulwer, Anthropometamorphosis (1650)
"It is most true that a man is to be commended, if he be cleanly... his haire well dressed, his beard well brushed, and alwayes his vpper lip well curled... as if every haire would threaten to pull out his eyes, for if he chance to kisse a Gentlewoman, some rebellious haire may happen to startle in her nose, and make her sneese, so by this meanes, he applies both physick & courtesie at one time, then he may freely say, God blesse you Lady, receaving back the chirping Eccho of I thenk you sir."

Simion Grahame, The Anatomie of Humors 

Want to improve your kissing technique? With a properly curled mustache, your next kiss will really be explosive.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How to Groom Yourself, c. 1200

Walters Art Museum, W.105

 "Let your hair be combed, and your haircut be equally neat. If you are shaggy, have your hairy beard trimmed back. If your eyes are watery, consult a doctor. Let your hands be clean, your sleeves laced up. Don’t have deformed fingernails, or disgusting teeth. Don’t let long hairs sprout from your nostrils. Your feet should not be marred with ugly skin; you should walk elegantly with your head high."
Daniel of Beccles, Urbanus magnus
Don't take this the wrong way, but the Middle Ages would like to gently suggest that you walk those gnarly feet to the pedicurist.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How to Cure Tooth Problems, 1673

Jan Miense Molenaer, The Dentist (1629)
"Take the Powder of double refined Sugar, and Powder of White Pepper of each alike, being melted in a Brazen or Copper Ladle, make it up into small Balls, and hold them between your Teeth, and it giveth present ease..." 
William Sermon, A Friend to the Sick 
Toothache? No problem. Just whip up some of these peppery caramels and stick them to your teeth. There, isn't that better?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How to Keep Your Cat, c. 1470

Cat Churning Butter, 14th c.
Yale, Beinecke MS 404, f. 148r

"If you have a good cat and you don't want to lose it, you must rub its nose and four legs with butter for three days, and it will never leave the house."

The Distaff Gospels

This trick will certainly prevent your cat from running away. It's less clear whether the cat will stick around because of adoration or poor traction.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How to Play with a Cat, 1658

How to make dainty sport with a Cat.

Mildly Grumpy Cat
Edward Topsell, The History of Four-Footed
☞ "If you will have some sport with a Cat, then get a little Bel, such as the tame Hawkes have at their legs, and tye the Bell something hard at the end of the Cats tayle, and let her go, she feeling of her tayle smart, and hearing of the Bel gingle, she will run up and down as if she were mad, flying against the walls and windowes: then if she can, she will get into some hole to hide her selfe, but when she wags her tayle never so little, then out she comes, and is as mad as before, and never will rest quiet till it be taken off, or she can get it off her selfe."

☞ "Some have shod a Cat round, with putting melted Pitch into foure Walnut-shels, and placing her feet therein, and she will make pretty sport."

☞ "I was told of a merry Fellow that came into an Ale-house in cold weather, and finding but a reasonable Fire, said, Hee would make the Cat pisse it out, and watching his opportunity, he getteth his Hostesses Cat, putting her head betwixt his thighs, and holding her foure feet fast in one hand, and with the other hand held up her tayle neer the fire, and did pisse such abundance that she quite quenched the same."

John White, A Rich Cabinet with Variety of Inventions

Some dainty cat capers from the pre-YouTube era! I imagine the cat would respond by making dainty sport of removing your face from your head.

Monday, August 25, 2014

How to Behave in School, 1595

“Be it far from thee to go unto the Schoole with as ill a will as wicked dooers goe unto the Stockes, or to the Gallowes... when thou art at Schoole, bee studious in thy lectures learning, attentive to thy Masters wordes and documents, what soever thy Master shall teach, mark it heedfully, and meditate thereon earnestly untill thou have learned the same perfectlye... Flie all fighting and wrangling with thy fellowes. But be curteous, gentle & lowlie, among all both rich and poore. Make no noyse nor use any meane, whereby thou maiest disturbe thy schoolefellowes: much lesse thy schoolemaster. Be a patterne of good manners, industry, curtesie, and obeying thy Master unto all in the Shoole. So shall thy praise be great, and thy profit greater.” 
William Fiston, The Schoole of Good Manners
Also: yield not to the temptations of Facebook during thy classes, do not rely overmuch on Wikipedia for thy term paper, and mock not thy Master on social media.

Monday, August 18, 2014

How to Settle Your Stomach, 1695

"Excessive Drinking of Wine"
De conservanda bona valetudine (University of Pennsylvania)
"The Oyl of Wormwood by Decoction, Oyl of Quinces, and Oyl of Mastich, are reckoned by Authors the three Stomach Oyls, for outward Use, to strengthen the Stomach in Vomitings, &c. Two or three drops of the Chymical Oyl, is convenient in a Dose of Stomach Pills, in crapulent Cases, and after a drunken Debauch, to prevent Surfeiting, by cleansing the Stomach of filth and ill Humours.” 
William Westmacott, Historia vegetabilium sacra
Feeling crapulent? Just keep this toolkit of oils on hand for your next drunken debauch. Goodbye, vomitings!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How to Show Respect, 1889

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find out what it means to this dude.

"Kneeling... is a salute made upon meeting a person. It may be accompanied by kissing the hand of the person, in which case the one kneeling will use his own hand which is farthest from the audience, and lift to his lips the hand of the other person which is nearest him. The lips should touch the hand very lightly and no actual kissing occur... The Ninth Kneeling Attitude means Respect. It is made by advancing to kneel upon one knee and placing the tips of the fingers of the right hand to the lips."

Edmund Shaftesbury, Lessons in the Art of Acting (1889)

Need to make a good impression on your boss or godfather? This Victorian stage kneel with optional air-kiss will get you the promotion you desire. Just remember: no actual kissing. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How to Carry Objects While Swimming, 1595

"To carrie any thing drie over the water in his hands. This is onely done by swimming upon his backe, and strayning himselfe to lye straight with his body, so that he holde his armes straight up, which will else force him to bend his bodie, and so he shall sincke, and holding his armes upward as afore, he may easilie carrie, or recarry, any thing over the water without wetting, as for example."

Christopher Middleton, A Short Introduction for to Learne to Swimme

Need to cross a river with cargo? This technique will get you to the other side with your belongings dry. As the illustration suggests, it works particularly well with... live birds.

Monday, July 28, 2014

How to Eat at Sea, 1607

Detail of ship, Hendrik Cornelisz Vroom, c. 1600
"A cheape, fresh and lasting victuall, called by the name of Macaroni amongst the Italians, and not unlike (save onely in forme) to the Cus-cus in Barbary, may be upon reasonable warning provided in any sufficient quantity, to serve either for change and variety of meat, or in the want of fresh victual."  
Hugh Plat, Certaine Philosophical Preparations of Foode and Beverage for Sea-Men
Need some sustenance for your upcoming sea voyage? You can subsist for months entirely on this special victual, called by the name of Macaroni amongst the Italians and the college students. Pair it with some ketchup and you're on your way to the Indies!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How to Improve Hearing, 1658

“For to make a man hear. Take a red Onion and pick out the top, and fill it full of fair hot Hens grease; and lay the top on again, and rost it in the Embers till it be tender, and then quish out the oyl into the ears of the sick man or woman, and then stop the ears with black wooll.”

Thomas Collins, Choice and Rare Experiments in Physick and Chirurgery

Yes, this remedy will make you hear -- if what you want to hear is the sound of hot chicken fat quishing around in your head.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How to Picnic, 1876

I seem to have forgotten something. The potato salad?
Édouard Manet, Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe, 1862-3
"Invitations for a picnic should be sent out about ten days before the time named, or at least long enough to fill up any vacancies caused by refusals. The food and delicacies of all kinds provided should be abundant, and, of course, cold. It should be sent on to the spot fixed on under the care of the servants. Take care to have carriages which will close in case of rain amongst your conveyances. The above instructions relate to a picnic given by one person to her friends. The ordinary picnic is an arrangement between more or fewer persons to bring provisions, &c., and share expenses. In this case the ladies supply the eatables, the gentlemen the wine." 
Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen, 1876
Picnic must-have list: servants, rainproof conveyances, and plenty of gentlemen.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How to Prevent Sunburn, 1665

Hans Adam Weissenkircher, Helios on His Chariot, c. 1685
"To keep the face from Sunburn, you had best wash with water drawn from the whites of eggs, or juice of soure grapes... or take goats suet well washed in cleare water, beat it in a mortar with rose water, strein it through a thick cloth, then take oile of sweet almonds one ounce, sugar candy two drams, camfre half a dram, boile them all together, stirring them continually that they may be white, when it hath boiled a pretty while put it into a glass for your use. If you goe abroad in the Sun or Wind anoint the face with it, and 'twill preserve your complexion." 
Thomas Jeamson, Artificiall Embellishments (1665)
Don't hit the beach this summer without a jar of homemade goat-fat sunblock. Sun protection factor unknown, ick factor 85.

Monday, June 30, 2014

How to Write a Letter of Condolence, 1867

"To a Friend on the Loss of a Limb by Accident. My Dear Friend,-- I cannot find words to express to you how deeply I was shocked and pained to hear of your sad accident... I am thankful that your right arm has not suffered, as that is undoubtedly the most reliable and useful... If I can be of service to you in any way, remember that to aid you is ever the sincere wish of
Your friend,
Edward Potts."
S. A. Frost, Frost's Original Letter-Writer. A Complete Collection of Original Letters and Notes Upon Every Imaginable Subject of Every-Day Life, With Plain Directions About Everything Connected With Writing a Letter (1867)
Need to write a heartfelt letter of condolence, but too busy to experience real compassion? This handy collection of very specific form letters has you covered. Just don't forget to customize the limb in question. Awkward...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to Dress, 1530

Well turned out, you say?
Francis I of France,  c. 1520-5
"Naturally good or bad taste does exist. Things which are useless to the function of an article of dress, for example, are in bad taste... It was once held to be somewhat effeminate not to wear a belt, but nowadays nobody is faulted for this, because with the invention of underwear, shirts, and hose, the private parts are concealed even if the tunic fly open... Slashed garments are for fools; embroidered and multicoloured ones for idiots and apes... If your parents have given you clothing of a superior elegance, do not swivel about to admire yourself or leap for joy and preen yourself in front of other people, for the former behaviour is for apes, the latter for peacocks. Let others admire while you yourself appear unaware that you are well turned out." 
Desiderius Erasmus, De civilitate morum puerilium
Outfit check: your garments are a sexy monochrome, and you're wearing your best hose in case of tunic malfunction. You're looking fine and you know it. But please stop jumping for joy.

Friday, June 20, 2014

How to Eat a Peach, 1693

John Gerard, The Herbal (1633)
"The excellency of peaches... further appears when we cut a Peach with the Knife, which is, in my Opinion the first thing to be done to them at Table, by any one that would eat them delightfully, and with a true relish, and then we may see all along where the Knife has past, as 'twere an infinite number of little Springs, which are methinks, the prettiest things in the World to look upon... I would have also... that those Peaches which are not smooth, be only covered with a reasonable proportion of soft Down, much hairiness being a certain mark of the want of competent goodness in a Peach." 
Jean de la Quintinie, The Compleat Gard'ner (trans. 1693)
Have you been eating peaches delightfully? A properly sliced peach can induce weird but beautiful hallucinations, provided that the peach is not too hairy.

Monday, June 16, 2014

How to Avoid Stinks, 1706

H. W. Bunbury, "The Battle of the Cataplasm," 1773
"When you are where Stinks are, open your Mouth, and breath through, and you shall not smell it, nor receive prejudice by it." 
Thomas Lupton, A Thousand Notable Things (1706 ed.)
From the century that brought you the French and American Revolutions: a lesser-known revolution in Stinks management.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How to Mouse-Proof Your Cheese, 1649

Edward Topsell, The History of Four-Footed Beasts (1658)
"How to make a Receit, that neither Rat nor Mouse shall eat or gnaw of your Cheese. The Weasel, the Rat, and Mouse, are at such deadly hatred one with the other, as that, if you put the brain of a Weasel into the Rennets or Curds whereof you intend to make your Cheese, neither Rats nor Mice will ever come to taste or eat thereof."  
Thomas Hill, Naturall and Artificiall Conclusions (1649)
With this clever recipe, your cheese will finally be safe from the gnawing of vermin. Wait until after the cheese course, though, to tell your dinner guests the secret of your wondrous weasel cheese.

Friday, June 6, 2014

How to Reanimate a Frog, 1906

"If a frog, turtle or even a land-loving toad, be left a comparatively short time to wander around the floor in the dry atmosphere of a modern dwelling house, it will dry up until it is at last so brittle that the legs may be broken like dried twigs. But if by chance any of our valued pets are reduced to this uncomfortably brittle state, do not, on that account, throw them away, for it may be possible to Bring the Mummies to Life again by soaking them in tepid water for a few hours. This fact is not generally known, and will be doubted by most people, but I personally know of two instances in which the dried, mummified and apparently dead creatures were restored to life by this method. In one instance it was a toad which was lost in a studio and in the other instance it was a small turtle which escaped from a broken aquarium." 
Daniel Carter Beard, New Ideas for Out of Doors (1906)
Perhaps in the past you have just thrown away your accidentally mummified pets. But now the secret of frog revivification is yours!

Monday, June 2, 2014

How to Slim Down, 12th century

Look like this guy in no time!
BL Royal 6 E VI, f. 179
"If, however, the woman is fat and seemingly dropsical, let us mix cow dung with very good wine and with such a mixture we afterward anoint her. Then let her enter a steambath up to the neck, which steambath should be very hot from a fire made of elder [wood], and in it, while she is covered, let her emit a lot of sweat... We also treat fat men in another way. We make for them a grave next to the shore of the sea in the sand, and in the described manner you will anoint them, and when the heat is very great we place them halfway into the grave, halfway covered with hot sand poured over. And there we make them sweat very much. And afterward we wash them very well with the water of the previous bath." 
The Trotula (12th century)
 You're planning a trip to the seashore, but you're feeling a bit dropsical. No problem: this manure wrap will help you achieve your beach body in no time. And if that isn't enough, you can always bury yourself in the sand.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

How to Dress a Wound, 1653

Paulus Potter, Wolf-Hound (c. 1650)
"To stanch the bleeding of a Wound. Take a Hounds Turd, and lay that on a hot coal, and binde it thereto, and that shall stanch bleeding..." 
Elizabeth Grey Kent, A Choice Manual of Rare and Select Secrets in Physick and Chirurgery (1653)
Man's best friend: loyal, courageous, and always ready to provide you and your neighborhood with lifesaving medicine.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

How to Soothe a Teething Baby, c. 1450

Andrea Mantegna, The Circumcision of Jesus 
(detail, c. 1461)
"Sometimes babies have trouble with teething. In that case you should squeeze the gums with your fingers, and gently massage them, and the palate as well. And you should anoint the gums with the brains of a hare (which are very suitable for this purpose), or with fat or butter or good-quality olive oil; and you should do this twice a day. The milk of a dog is suitable, too. It is also very helpful to use hen's fat for both anointing and massaging the gums." 
Michele Savonarola, Ad mulieres ferrarienses (c. 1450)
Teething trouble? No problem -- just smear the baby's mouth with some fatty goo. The only issue is that once he's tasted hare's brains, he'll never go back to puréed pears.

Monday, May 19, 2014

How to Spit, 1651

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Boys Eating Grapes
and Melons
(detail), 1645 
"Spet not farre off thee, nor behinde thee, but aside, a little distant, & not right before thy companion: but if it be some grosse flegme, one ought, if it may be, tred upon it. Be-spet not the windows in the streets, nor spet on the fire, nor on a bason, nor on any other place where the spettle cannot be taken away by putting thy foot thereon." 
Francis Hawkins, Youths Behavior (1651)
The trick to public spitting is a nimble foot. It's preferable not to be-spet your companion, but if you do, just tread upon him discreetly.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

How to Wear Gentlemanly Underwear, 1891

"White or Pink?"
Gentlemen, 1896
"Underclothing. This consists of shirt, drawers, and half-hose. The material may be flannel, balbriggan, or silk. White is the proper color, because it is pure and clean. Such colors as pink, or blue, or black may be worn. Have the drawers fit tight, or the trousers will set ill... Underclothing should be changed at least twice a day. Silk is worn always with evening dress."  
Mortimer Delano de Lannoy, Simplex Munditiis. Gentlemen (1891)
You can tell a gentleman by his evening drawers. They are silk. They are tight. They may be pink. And they are extremely fresh.

Monday, May 12, 2014

How to Send a Secret Message, 1677

"Does the past have much to say about espionage?"

Theodoor Rombouts, Joueurs de cartes (detail)
17th c.
"Now we will teach the techniques for writing on various objects in such a way that, even though the marks may be seen, nevertheless they will deceive spies and interceptors, through artful tricks...
One can write messages quite effectively on playing cards. It is first necessary to lay out the cards in a certain order, each one beside the next, either face up or face down. Once you have arranged them in this way, you can write whatever message you want along the borders between cards. Then you flip the cards and shuffle them well. The message will no longer appear, and if anyone is curious enough to examine the cards closely, he will see only some disorderly markings. But when the intended recipient wants to read the message, he will lay out the cards in the predetermined order, so that the corners and edges join and line up with each other, and it will be possible to read the message perfectly."  
Giambattista Della Porta, Della magia naturale (Italian edition, 1677)
What's this hand? Oh, nothing special: just the Six of Meet-Me-at-the-Armory and the Ace of Bring-the-Suitcase.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

How to Nap, 1607

Adriaen Brouwer, A Boor Asleep (17th c.)
"If R be in the month, their judgements erre,
That thinke that sleepe in afternoone is good,
If R be not therein, some men there are,
That thinke a little nap breeds no ill blood." 
The Englishmans Docter, or, the Schoole of Salerne (1607)
Good news: May marks the beginning of the official Nap Season. So exercise your historical right to an afternoone sleepe today! If your boss disapproves, just recite this handy rhyme to explain the Doctrine of Napping.

Friday, May 2, 2014

How to Fart, 1530

 The Prince of Humanists *cough*
Hans Holbein the Younger, Portrait of Desiderius
Erasmus of Rotterdam
"Some teach that boys should keep in the gas of their bellies by compressing their buttocks. But it is not civil to become ill while you are trying to seem polite. If it is possible to leave, let him do it alone, but if not, follow the ancient proverb: Hide the fart with a cough."
Desiderius Erasmus, De civilitate morum puerilium (1530) 
Signature achievements of Erasmus, Prince of Humanists: groundbreaking scholarship, incisive social criticism, and the rediscovery of ancient fart-concealing techniques.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How to Replace a Nose, 1587

Gaspare Tagliacozzi,
De curtorum chirurgia (1598)
"An incision is made in the skin of either arm, left or right, down to the flesh, that is, only as far as the surface of the muscles... Furthermore, the extent of the mutilation of the nose will indicate the length and breadth of the skin which must be taken... When the skin is recognized as fit for grafting, its margins, as well as those of the nose, are lightly scarified so that the arm skin may be joined to the nose with sutures by the art. However, in order that in the various motions of the body those parts joined in this way may not be torn apart and injured, the arm should be kept bound to the head with proper bandages, while the wound and suture are being healed with cicatrizing agents... But when excellent union of the wound and nourishment of the skin is observed, sever the arm from the face, and care for the wound as you do for other wounds for a period of several days; but the remaining skin, that is, the result of the grafting, which, of course, is attached to the nose, has to be made into the shape of a nose... Now this procedure, as well as the rest of the operation, does not prove as difficult as practically everyone until now has seemed to believe, even the most illustrious men."  
Gaspare Tagliacozzi, Letter to Girolamo Mercuriale (1587)
The wonders of home rhinoplasty: just join Flap I to Appendage L, spend a couple weeks with your arm tied to your face, and voilà! A new you, with a slightly less-mutilated nose.

Friday, April 25, 2014

How to Know if You're Pregnant, 1684

Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger,
Portrait of a Woman in Red (1620), Tate
"The women are troubled with nauseating and loathing of their meat, and oftentimes covet and greedily long for things contrary to Nutriment, as Coals, Rubish, Chalk, Lime, Starch, Oat-meal, raw Flesh and Fish or the like, which desire proceeds from a former contraction of evil humours... some Women as it has been noted by divers Authors of Credit, have been so extravegant in their longings, that they have coveted Hob-Nails, Leather, Horse Flesh, Mans Flesh, and the Flesh of divers ravenous Beasts..." 
Aristoteles Master-piece (1684)
Forget the home pregnancy test. Have you been craving ravenous beast flesh? Or... oatmeal? Congratulations: you're expecting!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How to Eat Bread, 1634

Arm und Reich (17th c.)
"Bread that commeth hote from the Oven is unwholesome... hot bread causeth thirstinesse, by reason that it is hot, for it swimmeth in the stomacke, by reason of his vaporous humidity: yet it is of quicke digestion, and descendeth stoutly downe. And although that hote bread... be unwholesome to eate: yet the smell thereof is right wholesome, for it relieveth one in a swound: and it is possible, that some folke may live by the smell of new bread... Beware of crusts eating, because they ingender a dust cholor, or melancholly humours, by reason that they bee burned and dry. And therefore great estates... cause the crustes above and beneath to be chipped away, wherefore the pith or crumme should be chosen, the which is of a greater nourishment than the crust." 
Regimen sanitatis Salerni: or, the Schoole of Salernes Regiment of Health (1634)
Fresh-baked bread! Its aroma alone can revive you from a swoon and keep you alive in tough times, but don't, you know, actually try to eat it. Also: here's some hard science to back up the crust-trimmers out there.

Friday, April 18, 2014

How to Wake or Sleep, 1685

Look deep into the eye of the toad...
Edward Topsell, The History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents (1658)
"To make one wake or sleep. You must cut dexterously the Head of a Toad, alive, and at once, and let it dry, in observing that one Eye be shut, and the other open; that which is found open makes one wake, and that shut causes Sleep, by carrying it about one." 
Nicolas Lémery, Modern Curiosities of Art & Nature (1685)
Who needs caffeine or Ambien when you've got the shriveled head of a winking toad?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How to Exchange Photographs, 1891

Portrait of an Unknown Daguerrotypist, 1845
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

"Photographs should never be solicited from a mere acquaintance. Wait till you know a lady well before asking for her likeness. No gentleman should be allowed to possess, nor should he seek to possess, a lady's picture without first having met her at least seven times... And it is also unnecessary to comply with a like request from the lady till of fast acquaintance."

Mortimer Delano de Lannoy, Simplex Munditiis. Gentlemen (1891)

Best practices for dating: Keep plenty of headshots on hand, but never hand them over before the seventh date.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How to Choose Meat, 1772

Thomas Rowlandson, The Wonderful Pig (1785)
"Lamb is more Nutritious than any kind of Poultry, Mutton than Lamb, Veal than Mutton, and Beef than Veal; But Pork is more Nutricious than any of these; for the Juices of Pork, which is more like Human Flesh than any other Flesh is, are more adapted to the Nourishment of a Human Body than the Juices of any other Flesh." 
Directions and Observations Relative to Food, Exercise and Sleep (1772)
On reflection, I can understand why the US Pork Board chose "Pork: The Other White Meat"over "Pork: More Convenient than Cannibalism."

Monday, April 7, 2014

How to Talk About Your Kids, 1558

"You got a problem with my Momo?"
Paolo Veronese, Giuseppe da Porto with his
Son Adriano

"Those who are constantly talking about their children, their wives or their nursemaids, are equally at fault. 'Yesterday my boy made me laugh so much. Listen to this...You have never seen a more lovable son than my Momo...' No-one has so little to do that he has the time to answer or even to listen to such nonsense and so it irritates everyone." 
Giovanni della Casa, Galateo (1558)
History teaches us many timeless and important lessons. Chief among them: no one wants to hear about Momo.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How to Use Bacon, c. 530

"The Little Hunt," Villa Romana del Casale, Piazza Armerina (4th c.)
"At this point I will explain how bacon may be eaten to the best effect... if it has been simply roasted in the same way as a joint of meat, the fat drains into the fire and the bacon becomes dry, and whoever eats it is harmed and not benefited; it also produces bad humors and causes indigestion. But if bacon that has been boiled and cooled is eaten, it is more beneficial... As for raw bacon which, so I hear, the Franks have a habit of eating... they are healthier than other people because of this food. Let me give a good example so that what I am writing may be believed: thick bacon, placed for a long time on all wounds, be they external or internal or caused by a blow, both cleanses any putrefaction and aids healing. Look at what power there is in raw bacon, and see how the Franks heal what doctors try to cure with drugs or with potions." 
Anthimus, On the Observance of Foods (c. 511-534)
Well, the bad news from Late Antiquity is that your crispy bacon is giving you bad humors. On the plus side, though, no medical treatment beats a bacon Band-Aid. Who needs emergency medical care when you've got raw bacon?

Monday, March 31, 2014

How to Make Snail Bread, 1685

Joachim Camerarius, Symbolorum et Emblematum 4 (1604)
"A sort of Bread, of which a Mouthful can maintain a Man eight daies, without eating any thing else. Take a quantity of Snails, and make them void their sliminess; then dry and reduce them to fine Powder, of which make a Loaf, with a Mouthful of which a Man may be eight days without eating." 
Nicolas Lémery, Modern Curiosities of Art & Nature (1685)
One bite of this special bread and the idea of eating anything at all will nauseate you for eight days! The only problem: to learn how to make snails void their sliminess, you'll have to consult a different manual.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How to Wear Platform Shoes, 1600

Vecellio, Habiti antichi e moderni (1598)
"Now in order to walk nicely, and to wear chopines properly on one's feet, so that they do not twist or go awry (for if one is ignorant of how to wear them, one may splinter them, or fall frequently, as has been and still is observed at parties and in church), it is better for [the lady] to raise the toe of the foot she moves first when she takes a step, for by raising it thus, she straightens the knee of that foot, and this extension keeps her body attractive and erect, besides which her chopine will not fall off that foot. Also by thus raising it she avoids sliding it along [the ground], nor does she make any unpleasant noise. Then she should put it down, and repeat the same thing with the other foot (which follows)... By walking this way, therefore, even if the lady's chopines are more than a handbreadth-and-a-half high, she will seem to be on chopines only three fingerbreadths high, and will be able to dance flourishes and galliard variations at a ball, as I have just shown the world this day." 
Fabritio Caroso, Nobilità di dame (1600)
Have you ever fallen on your face at a party in your six-inch platforms? Awkward! And it's even worse when it happens in church. Just practice this technique and you'll be strutting like a Venetian courtesan in no time.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

How to Cure Gas, 1685

The Tench
Izaak Walton, The Compleat Angler (1653)
"Against the Wind in the Belly. Apply a living Tench to the Patients Navel, the Head being upwards towards the Stomach; and tye it fast on with a Napkin; and there leave it twenty four hours, till it be dead; then bury it in the Dung, and you will see the Wind will vanish." 
Nicolas Lémery, Modern Curiosities of Art & Nature (1685)
If anyone asks why you have a dying fish strapped to your abdomen, just explain that it's for your wind problem. I promise they'll leave you alone.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How to Walk With Ladies, 1891

"Always keep to the right of the sidewalk, and never pass in front of a lady coming at right angles at a street corner, unless a distance of six feet intervene between said lady and the crossing-point when you reach it... When walking with a lady keep either a military step, or if her step is too short for your comfort, then take a Newport drag pace, taking care that the body does not rise much, thus preventing a see-saw appearance... A distance of half a foot should be kept between the lady and yourself at all times when the walk is not crowded; this is necessary always in the daytime, and also in the evening unless the acquaintance is such as permits taking arms. Never lock arms in the daytime." 
Mortimer Delano de Lannoy, Simplex Munditiis. Gentlemen (1891) 
Walking: perhaps you think you have mastered this art. You are wrong. Until you can perform instinctive calculus operations on street corners and execute a smooth Newport drag pace, you should not walk in public.

Friday, March 14, 2014

How to Break Up a Party, 1659

Jan Steen, A Merry Party (c. 1660)
"A fine Conceit, to clear a Room of drunken, or rude company. Take a Chafingdish of clear Charcoals, or live Wood-coals; throw Giney Pepper on it, and put it under the table, and they will both cough, sneez, fart, and spew, if they have drunk hard. You may do the like with Assa-fœtida, and Euforbium. The same put into a hollow Tooth, easeth the pain." 
Richard Amyas, An Antidote Against Melancholy (1659)
House filled with drunken merrymakers? This 17th-century smoke bomb will send them out the door with a fanfare of explosive convulsions. (Also note that, like any good Early Modern remedy, it doubles as a cure for toothache. Hopefully without the above-mentioned side effects.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

How to Choose Honey, 4th century

1655 engraving of Childeric I's golden bees (5th c.)

"We recall that in all treatments the honey which is most effective is that in which there are dead bees. If you happen to use it, it will be worth seeking out."

Plinii Secundi qui feruntur de medicina libri tres (4th century)

There's no better sweetener for your therapeutic cup of tea than honey studded with embalmed bees. Drink up!