Thursday, January 12, 2017

How to Interpret Small Hands, 1651

John Bulwer, Chirologia (1644), Folger Shakespeare Library
"The hands very short, doth signifie a gross and rude person: fat and fleshie, with the finger likewise, inclined to theft. Small hands, crafty men." 
Johannes ab Indagine, The Book of Palmistrie and Physiognomy
Well, that settles it. Short fingers = vulgarian.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

How to Cure Congestion, 1682

Giovanni Battista Ferrari, Hesperides (1646)
"For a Cold and stuffing in the Head, to draw Rheum from the Head, and comfort the Brain. Take an Orange, and pare off very thin the yellow Rind; rowl it up conveniently to thrust up into the Nostril, turning the inner moist side outward to be next your flesh within the Nose; put a rowl into each Nostril. It will cause sneesing, and will make much water run down at the Nose, and comfort the Brain."
G. Hartman, The True Preserver and Restorer of Health 
If you like your martini with a twist, try your head cold with a twist!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How to Serve a Flaming Bird, c. 1465

Musée du Petit-Palais L.Dut.456, f. 86v (15th c.)
How to Dress a Peacock With All Its Feathers, So That When Cooked, It Appears To Be Alive and Spews Fire From Its Beak
     How to dress a peacock so that it appears to be alive: first, the peacock should be killed by stabbing it in the head with a sharp knife or by slitting its throat, as you would with a baby goat. Then slice the body from the neck all the way to the tail, cutting only the skin and delicately skinning it so that you do not ruin the feathers or the skin. When you have finished skinning the body, turn the skin inside out, from the neck down. Make sure not to detach the head from the skin of the neck; and similarly, make sure that the legs remain attached to the skin of the thighs. Then dress it well for roasting, and stuff it with good things and good spices, and take some whole cloves and use them to stud the breast, and cook the bird slowly on a spit; and place a wet cloth around the neck so that the heat does not overly dry it; and wet the cloth repeatedly. When it is done cooking, remove form the spit and dress it up in its skin.
     Prepare an iron device attached to a cutting board that passes through the feet and legs of the peacock so that the iron cannot be seen and so that the peacock stands up on its feet with its head erect and seems to be alive; and arrange the tail nicely so that it forms its wheel.
     If you want it to spew fire from its beak, take a quarter ounce of camphor with a little cotton wool around it, and put it in the beak of the peacock, and also put a little aqua vitae or good, strong wine.    
     When you serve it, light the cotton wool and it will spew fire for a good bit. And to make it even more magnificent, when the peacock is done, you can decorate it with leaves of hammered gold and place the peacock's skin over the gold after you have smeared the inside of the skin with good spices.
     The same can be done with pheasants, cranes, geese, and other birds, as well as capons and pullets.
Martino da Como, Liber de arte coquinaria 
Haven't you always fantasized about the holiday turkey spewing fire in the direction of your least favorite relative? Time to turn those dreams into fiery, delicious, gold-plated reality.

Friday, November 4, 2016

How to Cure a Stuffy Nose, 1658

Edward Topsell, The History of Four-Footed Beasts
"If any man shall but touch or kiss with his mouth the snowt or nostrils of a Mouse, and be troubled with the disease called the Rhume, which falleth down and stuffeth the nostrils, he shall in very short space be eased of the same." 
Edward Topsell, The History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents
Cold season checklist: Tissues. Hot tea. The quivering snout of the vulgar little mouse.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

How to Be a Powerful Woman, 1404

Beinecke Library, Visconti Tarot
“The better and more virtuous a lady is, the greater the war Envy very often makes against her... Therefore, the wise princess, and similarly all those who wish to act prudently, will be aware of this problem and provide themselves with a remedy... If Fortune should wish to assail her in any place (as it has done and does to many good people) and she finds out that some powerful person or persons do not wish her well, dislike her, and would harm her if they could... or by their false reports would portray her badly to barons, subjects or people, she will not make any sign that she notices it nor that she considers them her enemies... She should not talk carelessly... with a heart that is large and full, a lady cannot always keep quiet about what displeases her, but if she let slip a wrong word she might ruin her whole project… in such a situation the lady inevitably gains more in the long run by maintaining so long-suffering a manner than by being vengeful. There is no doubt that this teaching is suitable for princesses and ladies but also generally for all women.” 
Christine de Pizan, The Treasure of the City of Ladies
Wise princesses: putting up with everyone's crap since forever.

Friday, September 23, 2016

How to Get the Girl, c. 1470

Your new online dating profile photo
Walters Art Museum, MS W.88, f. 40r (14th c.)
"Young men should not hate cats because they are the cause of great happiness and can assist in achieving success in matters of love with young and charming ladies." 
The Distaff Gospels 
This message brought to you by the 15th-century cat guild.

Monday, August 29, 2016

How Not to Get Expelled, 1484

British Library, Royal 10 D IV, f. 1r (14th c.)
"It is commanded to all students that none of them henceforth in the streets or ways of this town wield swords, knives, daggers, or any other arms, or wander about in costume or with faces covered in these aforementioned places, or stir up horrible clamors at nighttime in the manner of wild asses, or participate in forbidden games either in the taverns of this city or the outlying areas or villages around the city, or attempt to perpretrate there any ill deeds at all, or dare to disturb or injure the inhabitants of this city or any others, either bodily or in property, or dare to afflict them with any other injuries." 
Leipzig University statute, 1484
Pro tip: your extracurricular activities should not involve daggers.