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.