Thursday, April 30, 2015

How to Cure Bad Breath, 1664

Allegories of the Senses (1651), Wellcome Library
"The Breathing is faulty when it stinketh. As when the Breath smells of Excrements or of dead fish, or rotten Cheese or the like... This is troublesome, and better known to the standers by then the Patient... the Breath that comes forth at the Nose, when it stinks, causeth the Disease called the Stink of the Nose, which is intolerable to the Standers by, and makes them that are troubled therewith to be shunned... 
You must hold sweet things in the mouth, and chew, and sometimes swallow them... Citron peels, Roses, Bayes, Marjoram, Smallage of Parsley chewed, taketh away the stink of Garlick and the like, and conceals that which is from the mouth... We use such things to be snuffed, or poured into the Nose to cause a sweet Scent, as Spanish Wine in which Basil, Marjoram, Calamints, Bayes, Lavender-flowers, Cinnamon, and Cloves have been infused." 
Platerus Golden Practice
If the Past offers you a citron peel, take it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How to Avoid Melons, 1565

Jacques le Moyne de Morgues, Study of a Melon (c. 1575)
"When you consider the small size of the root, and the great size of the stalk, and how close to the ground it is, and that it lies perpetually on the earth, and that it is influenced by every quality of the air, and that its growth is so fast, you will be compelled to admit that the melon is nothing other than the putrid moisture of the earth, colored by changing and harmful qualities, having every vice, harmful to the stomach, liver, spleen, intestines, lungs, kidneys, bladder, causing not only putrid humors but poisonous fluxes.  
Therefore my advice is that it should not only be renounced, but even banished from human use by the decrees of rulers. For what pestilence is more pernicious, from which many thousands of men have perished for so long?" 
Girolamo Cardano, De methodo medendi
How much longer must we wait for our politicians to confront the pernicious pestilence of melons?

Friday, April 24, 2015

How to Grow Hair, 1660

Jacob Ferdinand Voet, Portrait of a Young
Man of the Chigi Family
(17th c.)

"Of Ointments to restore the Hair... The shells of Sea Hedge-hogs burnt, and wrought together with Bears-grease, lay upon the places, being first rubbed... Take of Mouseturd, Frankincense, each two ounces, dissolve them in the sharpest Vinegar, and anoint the place, first shaved."

Johann Jacob Wecker, Arts Master-piece

Every well-coiffed gentleman's secret weapon: a medicine cabinet full of sea urchins and mouse turds.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

How to Stop Sneezing, 1664

La methode curative (1561), Wellcome Library
“In Neesing, there is a sudden sending forth of Air with more force and noise and a shaking of the whol Body... Palliate the Nostrils, with the Vapor of warm water, and anoynt them with Butter, Milk, Oyl, Oyl of Gourds, Poppies, Henbane, and with the white of an Egg and Mucilages. All fresh… Press and rub the Ears and Eyes, and pul the Nose, rub the Palate with the Finger and Comb the Head… Holding of the breath as it Cure the Hickets, so doth it Neesing, if the Nose and Mouth be stopped. Also frighting will cure Neesing, as soon as Hickets." 
Platerus Golden Practice 
Can't stop Neesing? No problem: just fill your nose with slime.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How to Care for Your Hair, 1881

Theatrical Poster, c. 1875 (Library of Congress)
“Not less than a hundred strokes a day should be given to a woman’s hair with a good hair-brush, rather hard, but not so unyielding as to tear the hair when it meets with a tangle… Once or twice a week, if possible, the hair should be allowed to flow loosely about the head for an hour or two, so as to admit of the air circulating freely about the roots… An excellent method is to rub the head thoroughly with a rather coarse towel until the healthy glow and redness ensue. If these fail to result from the rubbing, the head is in a thoroughly unhealthy and unproductive condition... The hair should never be fastened up too tightly by means of hairpins, combs, ties, &c. The sap should be allowed to circulate freely through the hair-tubes, and any cause preventing this acts prejudicially upon the growth." 
Sylvia's Book of the Toilet
Is your hair getting enough fresh air? Go on, let it free. Those hair-tubes will thank you.

Monday, April 13, 2015

How to Cure a Snakebite, 1303

British Library, Harley 3244, f. 57r (13th c.)
"First, bind the extremity with strong and tight bindings. Second, get an old rooster and pluck its bottom and hold it with its bottom on the bite, and if the rooster dies it is a good sign, because it is a sign that the venom has been drawn out of the body, so apply many roosters until you see that the rooster does not die from the venom." 
Bernard de Gordon, Lilium medicinae 
 Does your first-aid kit include a flock of bare-assed chickens? Be prepared!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How to Choose Drinking Water, 1528

Gesner, Nomenclator aquatilium animantium (1560)
"Thou ought to knowe that clere rennynge Waters that ben nyghe to cytees in pure grounde as small brokes be the best and lyghtest. Water that cometh out of stony erthe where as is moche fumosytees is hevy, contagyous, & noysom. Water of puddles or fenne full of frogges, addres, and other venymous worms be unholsom." 
Secretum secretorum 
A little water-quality issue you may have overlooked: poisonous snakes are not potable. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

How to Be a Serious Actor, 1699

Lodovico Burnacini, Nani e maschere ridicole (c. 1680)
"Laughing on stage at the wrong time is a defect. Hence one must remain unperturbed at all times, because laughter is unbecoming when one is playing a serious role... Also, in comic roles, remaining unperturbed moves the audience to even more laughter. Should a smirk escape anyway, one must know how to control it... [Mocking] is done by wrinkling up one's nose, twisting one's mouth, and showing one's teeth... Mocking is also done by stretching out the middle finger and keeping the others folded, which is a great insult... When this occurs while acting, beware of who does it and to whom it is done, because it may at times be permitted to buffoons, whereas it is always wrong in serious roles."  
Andrea Perrucci, Dell'arte rappresentativa, premeditata ed all'improvviso
Excited for your debut as Hamlet? Try not to give Claudius the finger.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

How to Fake a Nose Injury, 1635

"How to seeme to cut ones nose halfe off. For the effecting of this feate, you must have a knife for the nonce, made with a gap in the midst of the blade, as it is demonstrated in the following figure noted with the letter A. You must conceale the notch with your finger, and then wring it over the fleshie part of your nose, and your nose will seeme as it were halfe cut off with the knife. Note that in such feats as this, it were necessarie to have a piece of spunge with some sheepes bloud in it to be retained privately."

Hocus Pocus Junior
Ah, the old knife-in-the-nose stunt: a favorite of That Guy since the seventeenth century.