Monday, May 8, 2017

How to Improve Your Memory, 1562

Margarita Philosophica Nova (1508), Wellcome Library
"To sleepe hosed and shoed especially with foule sockes, doth hinder the Memorie, because of the reflection of the vapours: feebleth the syght, and causeth the body to waxe whote and burne... Feare doth oppresse the Memorie, or endurynge sadnes: also a pensive care of housholde busynesse is hurtfull. Also immoderate sleepe and violent vomiting." 
Guglielmo Gratarolo, The Castel of Memorie 
Frankly, if your sock vapors are foul enough to cause blindness and burning, a poor memory is the least of your problems.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

How to Study, 1636

Ramelli, Le diverse et artificiose machine (1588)
“The best time for studie is early in the morning, when the Planets be favourable to our purpose… Diligent students… must apply themselves earnestly to reading and meditation for the space of an houre: then to remit a little their cogitation, and in the meane time with an Ivory Combe to kembe their head from the forehead backwards about forty times, and to rub their teeth with a coarse linnen cloth. Then to returne againe to meditation for two houres, or one at the least... As for the residue of the day is convenient rather to revolve things reade before, than to reade or muse of new... Nothing is more hurtfull than studying in the night... notwithstanding I know that such as bee good Students indeed doe spare no time neither night nor day from their bookes... Yet would I have none to study so much, that thereby they should fall into sicknesse, or become melancholick... I counsell all students oftentimes to refresh their wearied minds with some sort of melody. For so shall they drive away the dumps of melancholy, and make their spirits more lively to learne.” 
Thomas Cogan, The Haven of Healthe

Secrets for surviving the semester: astrology, good music, and fabulous hair.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

How to Care For Your Teeth, 1613

L. van Leyden, A Tooth Drawer, 1523 (Wellcome Library)
"To keepe and preserve the teeth cleane. First if they bee very yellow and filthie, or blackish, let a Barber scoure, rubbe, and picke them cleane, and white, then after to maintaine them cleane, it shalbe very good to rub them every day with the roote of a Mallow, and to picke them cleane that no meate remaine and putrifie betweene the teeth.
Item, take of the small white pibble stones which bee found by the water sides, and beate them in very small powder, hereof take an ounce, and of Masticke one dramme, mingle them togeather, and with this powder once in xiiii daies rub exactly your teeth, and this shall keepe your teeth fayre and white: but beware yee touch not, ne vexe the gummes therewithall.
Item, to stable and stedfast the teeth, and to keepe the gummes in good case, it shall be very good every day in the morning, to wash well the mouth with red Wine." 
Thomas Raynalde, The Byrth of Mankinde
If anyone asks about your breakfast wine, just say it's for your dental hygiene.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How to Express Your Feelings, 1689

Facepalm Cupid, Andrea Alciato, Emblematum Liber (1534)
Excerpts from The Theatre of Compliments, Or, A Compleat New Academy: 
Expressions of Love and Friendship of Men towards Men.
Sir, I'le repay your love with usury.
Sir, When I contemplate your perfections, I begin to abhor my self for my deficiencies.
Sir, Your great Virtues conquer all hearts as irresistably, as Alexander the Great conquer'd Kingdoms.
Sir, You alone can conduct me to the highest pitch of accidental perfection.
Sir, You have deserv'd more Services from me, than I am ever able to perform.  
Complemental Expressions of Ladies to each other.
Madam, I am forcibly carried away, (I know not by what fate, against the bent of my own Genius).
Madam, You have blasted the harvest of my hopes.
Madam, Nothing shall have power to alien my love from you.
Madam, In the intercourse of affection my love surmounts your's. 
Amorous Expressions of Gentlemen to Ladies, Gentlewomen and Maidens, &c.
Madam, Let the showers of your pity mitigate the fires of my fancy.
Madam, There's a civil assault within me, by which I feel a certain restraint of my own liberty and affections.
Madam, You have no more beauty than will serve to excuse you from being extreamly ugly.
Madam, Your hair negligently dishevell'd, and careless attire, grace forth your beauty; which shines in the midst of so many obstacles, as the Sun in a winter day. 
Expressions of Ladies and Gentlewomen to Gentlemen.
Sir, You are the emblem of terror, and your furious looks are able to consume a woman.
Sir, an ounce of give me, is better than a pound of hear me. 
Sir, I am like a bed of Roses where flowers are mixt with prickles.
Sir, I am not like the Dolphin whom the sound of Musick bringeth to the shore.
Sir, Farewel, you'r grown rude, I dare not hear you further. 
Need a quick sentiment for that greeting card? One of these lines will be perfect for the intercourse of your affection. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

How to Encrypt a Message, 1641

Giambattista della Porta, De furtivis
litterarum notis
(1591), Folger
"The second way of secrecy in speech, is by an alteration of any knowne language... by augmenting words with the addition of other letters. Of which kind, is that secret way of discoursing in ordinary use, by doubling the vowels that make the syllables, and interposing G. or any other consonant... Thus, if I would say, Our plot is discovered, it must be pronounced thus, Ougur plogot igis digiscogovegereged. Which doe's not seeme so obscure in writing, as it will in speech and pronuntiation. And it is so easie to be learnt, that I have knowne little children, almost as soone as they could speake, discourse to one another as fast this way, as they could in their plainest English. But all these later kinds of secrecy in speech, have this grand inconvenience in them, that they are not without suspition...
There are likewise some other inventions to expresse any inward sence by barbarous words, wherein onely the first, and middle, and last letters shall be significant. As in this example. Fildy, fagodur wyndeeldrare discogure rantibrad. Which in its resolution is no more than this. Fly for we are discovered.
John Wilkins, Mercury, or, The Secret and Swift Messenger
Need to dial up your information security? These TOGOP SEGECREGET techniques will have your plot discovered in no time.

Friday, January 20, 2017

How to Cure Melancholy, c. 1303

J. Paul Getty Museum, MS 42, f. 1v
"The home must be bright, luminous, without pictures, and there should be many fragrant things there, and everyone in the home must be beautiful to behold... and they must say lighthearted things, and there should be musical instruments, and in short everything which gladdens the soul... also helpful are sleep, rest, leisure, and baths before food; helpful foods are hens, capons, and lamb; light, delicate wine; scaly fish from clean water; raw eggs; well-fermented and well-baked wheat bread with a reasonable amount of salt... one should avoid wine that is new, cloudy, coarse, or thick; lentils, beans, and other legumes; old cheese; beef; and other melancholy foods." 
Bernard de Gordon, Lilium medicinae
Feeling melancholy? No problem – just tell your beautiful family to play music and serve you some fine wine in bed.

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.