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.