Tuesday, December 29, 2015

How to Get a Manicure, c. 1150

Tacuinum sanitatis (14th c., Biblioteca Casanatense)
One who has very ugly nails should smear them with liquid from the little bladder of the bumblebee and tie it with a band. He should do this until they become beautiful.
Hildegard of Bingen, Physica 
Better make sure your beautician is also trained in entomology.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ye Olde Ask the Past Gift Guide

The Graphic (1874), The British Library
Shopping got you down? Don't worry – the Past has done this before. Here assembled for your triumphant gift-giving is the wisdom of the ages (or at least the 19th century).

Recipe for success: (1) spend a lot, and (2) Toilet Soaps. 
“It is all very well to send Christmas Cards as cheap and handy presents to each and all of one’s friends, but how much better, and more acceptable they become, when accompanied by some useful article! The hint we would give, and which we trust will be acted upon to the full, is to spend shillings where one intended pence, and pounds where one meant to spend shillings… For this purpose, what could be more acceptable than family boxes of mixed Toilet Soaps… Our word for it that a box of toilet soaps, or scents… would be equally as, or more acceptable than even the conventional hampers of game or barrels of oysters.”
The Reliquary and Illustrated Archaeologist (1879)
Need a special gift for a special guy? Play it safe with a silver mucilage pot, or go bold with a monkey-skin hymnal.
"Silver seals, silver mucilage pots, silver pen-racks, silver penholders, silver pen-tweezers, small silver stamp-boxes for the waistcoat pocket, are among the many little things much more reasonable... The fad for silver is universal... A very useful Christmas present is a hymnal, or hymnal and prayer-book, bound in black monkey-skin, with silver monogram or gilt initials (the latter stamped inside the cover), of size for the waistcoat pocket. These would cost – marking and all – $10. Elephant-skin is not as handsome as monkey, and the snake-skin is beautiful to look at, but most perishable."
Harper's Bazaar (1896)
Ah, the lady who has everything. I promise she does not have a complete winter ensemble of rat fur.
"What more delightful or dignified present can any lord make his lady than presenting her with a complete suit of ermine, comprising muff, cuffs, cape, tippet, boa, and cloak... How comes it, then, that polecats' and stoats' skins are held so inestimable, while the poor humble rat's skin is held in detestation, when in texture and softness it is quite equal, if not superior, to either?... I am satisfied there is no one thing can equal them for ladies' gloves, where delicacy and softness are the ideal requisites to form the beau-ideal of perfection. 
James Rodwell, The Rat: Its History and Destructive Character (1858)
Shopping for children? The Saucy Milk-Maid has what you need.

“The mechanical toys imported from Paris are the finest ever brought to this country… The Saucy Milk-Maid is propelled rapidly about the room, shaking her head and patting her cow, while the cow munches oats and lows contentedly. The Drunken Muleteer applies the bottle to his mouth with one hand, and holds on to the mule with the other." 
Harper's Bazaar (1877)
If you're on a budget, just get creative with a Revolutionary War era brocade gown.
"If any woman owns remnants of the old-fashioned brocade gown worn by her great-great-grandmother in Revolutionary days she is fortunate indeed, for she has it in her power to bestow Christmas presents which will be valued by every member of the family connection. Pin-cushions, pen-wipers, work-bags, sachets, sofa pillows – all these articles, in every variety of shape and size, afford an opportunity to use the brocade, or, if the pieces are large enough, handkerchief and glove cases may be added to the list." 
Harper's Bazaar (1893)
And of course, everyone on your list will appreciate a copy of Ask the Past

Monday, December 7, 2015

How to Exercise in Cold Weather, 1315


J. Paul Getty Museum, MS Ludwig IX 6, f. 2r
"If you will, walk daily somewhere morning and evening. And if the weather is cold, if you can, run on [an] empty stomach or at least walk rapidly, that the natural heat may be revived... If you cannot go outside your lodgings, either because the weather does not permit or it is raining, climb the stairs rapidly three or four times, and have in your room a big heavy stick like a sword and wield it now with one hand, now with the other, as in a scrimmage, until you are almost winded. This is a splendid exercise to warm one up and expel noxious vapors through the pores and consume other superfluities. Jumping is a similar exercise. Singing, too, exercises the chest. And if you will do this, you will have healthy limbs, a sound intellect and memory, and you will avoid rheum." 
Peter of Fagarola, Letter to his sons
Too cold for running outside? No problem – your mock swordplay and singing will definitely impress the other gym-goers.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

How to Cook All the Birds, 1849

"The Poultry of the World," 1858, a.k.a. dinner
"Take a fine large olive, stuffed with capers and anchovies, and preserved in the best oil, and put it into a fig pecker; after cutting off its head and legs, put the fig pecker into the body of a fine fat ortolan; put the ortolan, into the body of a sky-lark. Besides cutting off the head and legs, take away all the principal bones, and wrap it in a thick fillet of bacon; put the skylark, thus prepared, into a thrush, trimmed and arranged in a similar way; put the thrush into a fine plump quail; put the quail, without bacon, but wrapped in a vine leaf, into a lapwing, and the lapwing well trussed and covered with thin bacon, into a fine golden plover; put the plover, also rolled up in bacon, into a fine young partridge; put the partridge into a good succulent woodcock, and after surrounding the latter with very thin crusts of bread, put it into a teal; put the teal, well trussed and covered with bacon, into a Guinea-hen, and the Guinea-hen, also surrounded with bacon, into a fine young wild duck, in preference to a tame one; put the duck into a fine plump fowl, and the fowl into a fine large red pheasant; be sure it is very high flavoured; put the pheasant into a fine fat wild goose; put the wild goose into a Guinea-fowl; put the Guinea-fowl into a very fine bustard, and if it should not fit it, fill up the cavities with chesnuts, sausage-meat, and stuffing excellently made. Put these ingredients, thus prepared, into a vessel, hermetically sealed, and closed round with paste; and add onions, stuck with cloves, carrots, small bits of ham, celery, herbs, ground pepper, slices of bacon well seasoned, salt, spices, coriander, and a bit or two of garlic. Let it simmer for twenty-four hours over a slow fire, so arranged as to reach  every part alike. Perhaps, an oven might be better." 
Robert Reynolds, The Professed Cook (trans. from Almanach des Gourmands, 1809)
This monstrosity did, in fact, eat a turducken for breakfast. Bon appétit!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

How to Make Good Coffee, 1895

Currier & Ives, 1881 (Library of Congress)
"COFFEE THAT IS GOOD. To make good coffee is apparently not so simple as it may seem, if general results count for anything... There is no better stimulant in the morning than a delicious cup of coffee, and there is no better way of preparing it than according to the following recipe: Do not buy the coffee already ground, for it loses its fine flavor more rapidly when in the ground form than when whole. Have a small coffee mill and grind it yourself. A mixture of two or more kinds of coffee will give the most satisfactory result. Two thirds Java, with one third Mocha, will make a rich, smooth coffee. Now for the recipe: Put one cupful of roasted coffee into a small fryingpan, and stir it over the fire until hot, being careful not to burn it. Grind the coffee rather coarse and put it in a common coffeepot. Beat one egg well, and add three tablespoonfuls of cold water to it. Stir this mixture into the coffee. Pour one quart of boiling water on the coffee, and place the pot on the fire. Stir the coffee until it boils, being careful not to let it boil over; then place on the back of the stove, where it will just bubble, for ten minutes... After it has stood for five minutes, strain it into a hot coffeepot, and send to the table at once." 
C. F. Lawlor, The Mixicologist
Breakfast shortcut: just stir the egg into the coffee!

Monday, November 9, 2015

How to Make an Eel Pie, 1465

Konrad Gesner, Historiae
animalium
(1604)
 "Boil for a while an eel which has been skinned and cut up in pieces. Pass almond juice, with verjuice and rose water, through a sieve into a bowl. It would likewise not be ill advised to make it thicker by pounding in raisins with three or four figs. Then mix orach, torn by hand with parsley and fried in a little oil, an ounce of raisins, also an ounce of pine nuts, a little ginger, pepper, cinnamon, and saffron. Mix into the above-mentioned with your hands until they make one mass. When they are mixed, put in a well-oiled pan with an undercrust, placing pieces of eel in layers, as it were. When it has been semicooked, pour a bit of verjuice, rose water, and sugar into the upper crust, which has been perforated in several places. When it is finally cooked, serve to your enemies, for it has nothing good in it."
Platina, De honesta voluptate et valetudine



Cooking a special meal is a great way to express your feelings for someone. Especially if the feelings are "I'd love for you to leave before dessert."

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

How to Manage Your Anger, c. 1150

British Library,
Egerton MS 747, f. 83r
c. 1280-1310


"One who is inclined to wrath should take rose and less sage and pulverize them. When the wrath is rising in him, he should hold this powder to his nostrils. The sage lessens the wrath, and the rose makes him happy."

Hildegard of Bingen, Physica

Feeling some wrath coming on? One sniff of this medieval powder and ahhhhh...

Monday, October 26, 2015

How to Make a Turnip Jack-o-Lantern, 1873

"Another common amusement at this season of the year is to make a turnip lantern, and in connection with this, I would warn my young folks that as a first step to do this successfully, they should procure a turnip righteously and honestly... first, procure as large a turnip as possible, and then proceed with your pocket knife to scrape out all the substance of the turnip, leaving only the rind or skin... Having scraped all the substance out of your turnip, and made a hole in the lid to let out the smoke, proceed to cut on the outside a man's face, as you see has been done by the little fellow in our picture. Do not cut the shell of the turnip quite through but cut as thin as possible, so that as much light and as little wind may get through as possible... You must make a hole in the bottom of the lantern to receive the candle. When this is lighted all is complete, and you may now call on some of your friends and show your lantern."  
The Dew-Drop 
Having trouble procuring a pumpkin righteously and honestly? Terrifying turnip lantern to the rescue!

Friday, October 16, 2015

How to Cure a Cough, 1651

Conrad Gesner, Historiae animalium
"And a little Frog climbing up a tree, if any one shall spit in his mouth, and then let him escape, is said to cure the Cough." 
Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, Three Books of Occult Philosophy
Yet another benefit of making out with frogs.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

How to Make an Apple Toddy, 1869

Wine Apple, The Gardener's and Forester's Record (1833-6)
Wellcome Library, London
"Apple Toddy. Two wine glasses of 'Apple Jack'; one tablespoonful of white sugar; half of a baked apple. Add boiling water and nutmeg. This drink ought never to be made with a suspicion of weakness. It is only drank in cold weather, and needs to be a little strong to be satisfactory to the epicurean." 
Haney's Steward and Barkeeper's Manual
An apple a day, the epicurean's way.

Friday, September 25, 2015

How to Eat in Autumn, 1600

Later, old cheese.
The Grete Herball (1529), Wellcome Library
"Autumne beginneth, when the sunne entreth the first degree of Libra, which is the thirteenth day of September. Then it is Aequinoctiall, meteors are seene, the times do alter, the aire waxeth cold, the leaves do fall, corne is reaped, the earth loseth hir beautie, and melancholy is ingendered. For which cause, such things as breede melancholy are to bee avoyded, as feare, care, beanes, old cheese, salt beefe, broath of colewoorts, & such like. You may safely eate mutton, lambe, pigges, and young pullets. Take heed of the morning & evening cold." 
William Vaughan, Naturall and Artificial Directions for Health 
The key to a happy autumn? Just avoid fear and cabbage broth.

Friday, September 18, 2015

How to Shower, 1867

An Encyclopaedia of Domestic Economy, 1844
"The shower bath, notwithstanding the abuse in its application and the consequent injury, is, when properly applied, one of the best baths ever employed... Begin with the water tepid, then change to cool, followed by a dash of cold, is the best plan for most bathers. Arrange the water at the right temperature, then let it fall first upon the hands and arms, rubbing them vigorously; then upon the feet and legs, then the neck, back and chest, rubbing each part while the water falls upon it; then turning the body, alternately exposing different parts to the falling shower for two or three minutes... As a general rule the cold water should not fall on the top of the head, nor even the tepid water, if the hair is long and heavy; but if it is short, and the bather in good health, it is a great luxury to let the tepid or cool water come trickling down over the head, face and entire body... The shower bath... is useful for cleanliness, for increasing the external circulation, and for removing internal congestion and inflammation... for those in a vigorous state of health it is a decided luxury to take it, cold, as a regular morning bath."  
E. P. Miller, "How to Bathe," Herald of Health
Nothing says "great luxury" like two or three minutes of cold water on your head.

Monday, August 31, 2015

How to Succeed at University, 1471

Laurentius de Voltolina, The Classroom of Henricus de Alemannia
Liber ethicorum (c. 1360-90), Kupferstichkabinett Berlin
"Anyone attending any lecture must... have his own copy of the reading or a borrowed copy for the time of the lecture (two or three students at most may share the same copy) and, without a reasonable cause, except in the case of a legitimate impediment, he must miss no lecture that he was supposed to hear, or exercise which he was supposed to attend, from the third lecture or exercise after the beginning of the book, and as much as he is able, he must remain from the beginning to the end of the lecture or exercise, nor may he schedule two lectures or exercises at the same hour. 
However many times he has missed an exercise or lecture, or has not remained from the beginning to the end, and all his other failings, he must note down in the outline of his acts, to be presented at the time of the dispensation, along with the excuse (if he has any), and he must write and explain and seek a dispensation, so that according to the greater or smaller number of his negligences and failings, and excuses (if he has any), the professors will be able to deliberate and decide whether he deserves a dispensation." 
Leipzig university statute, 1471
Whatever the excuse (if he has any), I guarantee those profs have heard it before.

(Also, don't torment the freshmen.)

Friday, August 28, 2015

How to Get Rid of Stinging Insects, 1633

Francesco Stelluti, Persio (1630)
University of Oklahoma
"The Generall Method of Preventing, and Curing all venemous Stingings and Bitings. Prevention is onely two wayes: By having an eye to all places where they are likely to be abroad: And by driving them from the place of a mans habitation. All venomous Creatures are driven from the house by these fumes and washings following. Fume your roomes with the smoake of Harts-horne shavings, burnt in a chafing-dish or firepanne: or the shavings of sheepes hoofes: or the parings of old shooes. Wash the walls with the Gaule of any beast boyled a little in water." 
Stephen Bradwell, Helps for Suddain Accidents Endangering Life
Got an infestation? Time to light the old-shoe incense. (Simply whacking the insects with your old shoes is also effective.)

Friday, August 21, 2015

How to Train for Walking, 1813


Captain Barclay,
Celebrated Pedestrian
(Pedestrianism)
"When the object in view is the accomplishment of a pedestrian match, his regular exercise may be from twenty to twenty-four miles a day. He must rise at five in the morning, run half a mile at the top of his speed up-hill, and then walk six miles at a moderate pace, coming in about seven to breakfast, which should consist of beef-steaks or mutton-chops under-done, with stale bread and old beer. After breakfast, he must again walk six miles at a moderate pace, and at twelve lie down in bed without his clothes for half an hour. On getting up, he must walk four miles, and return by four to dinner, which should also be beef-steaks or mutton-chops, with bread and beer as at breakfast. Immediately after dinner, he must resume his exercise by running half a mile at the top of his speed, and walking six miles at a moderate pace. He takes no more exercise that day, but retires to bed about eight, and next morning proceeds in the same manner.

After having gone on in this regular course for three or four weeks, the pedestrian must take a four-mile sweat, which is produced by running four miles, in flannel, at the top of his speed... He is then put to bed in his flannels, and being covered with six or eight pairs of blankets, and a feather-bed, must remain in this state from twenty-five to thirty minutes, when he is taken out and rubbed perfectly dry. Being then well wrapt in his great coat, he walks out gently for two miles, and returns to breakfast, which, on such occasions should consist of a roasted fowl. He afterwards proceeds with his usual exercise."
Walter Thom, Pedestrianism; Or, an Account of the Performances of Celebrated Pedestrians 
Looking for a new competitive sport? Try pedestrianism: all the mania and discomfort of long-distance running, without all the actual running.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

How to Drive an Electric Car, 1896


"Such a motor is odorless, almost without vibration, and is practically noiseless. It can run with great speed and climb almost any hill road so long as it is smooth... When the battery is empty it may be recharged again at electrical stations maintained for the purpose, after which the carriage is ready for its journey once more... Aside from the device for supplying power to the wheels, there are numerous others for guiding and controlling the machine when it is under way. Near the seat of the driver are a number of switches and levers, which to one just learning how they operate are rather bewildering... The driver must keep his eyes wide open and both his feet and hands busy. With his left hand he grasps the power lever which controls the speed, while with the right he manages the steering lever. He has one heel all the time on an emergency switch that cuts off the current, and at the same time must ring a gong to warn people of the approach of his pneumatic-tired conveyance. With the other foot he manages a reversing-switch that will back the carriage, while with his toes he applies a quick brake. When he wishes to turn on the lights he presses a button under the seat. So it may be seen that he is rather busy, and can never go to sleep and let the old horse carry him home."
Henry Davenport Northrop, The Gem Cyclopedia of Universal Knowledge
On second thought, just forget all the levers and focus on ringing the gong very loudly.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

How to Use Chocolate, 1672

Nicolas de Blegny, Le bon usage du thé, du caffé,
et du chocolat
(1687)
“It revives the drooping spirits, and chears those that are ready to faint; expelling sorrow, trouble, care, and all perturbations of the minde; it is an Ambrosia: And finally, in a word, it cannot be too much praised… [It] keepeth the body fat and plump; and also preserveth the countenance fresh and fair… and certain it is, that a man may live longer with it, then with any kinde of Wine whatsoever... It is a great Cordial... strengthening the natural heat in all parts, and thereby prolonging life; for it is by an easie transmutation converted into blood. It preserveth in vigour the principal faculties, enabling men to prosecute their Studies and tedious exercises, expelling winde, opening obstructions… and is most excellent against Hypochondriack melancholy.” 
William Hughes, The American Physitian
Revives drooping spirits? Check. Prolongs life? Check. Turns into blood? Apparently.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How to Throw a Party (Single Ladies' Edition), 1896

Manners and Customs of Polite Society (1896)
"The bachelor women in their cosy little city apartments, or even their one apartment, refuse to be debarred from the pleasure and privilege of giving the little entertainments so dear to the heart feminine. They not only give the most charming little "teas" and "coffees," but they are past masters in the use of the chafing dish... A sandwich spread is another entertainment easily given by a "bachelor maid." This is a meal at which everything, barring the tea and coffee, is served in the form of a sandwich. Not until one has tried does one realize to what excellence and variety this form of viand lends itself. Deviled ham sandwiches, egg sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, lettuce sandwiches, potted ham, potted fish, potted cheese sandwiches, pineapple sandwiches, peanut sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches, tomato sandwiches, walnut sandwiches, oyster sandwiches and so on indefinitely."  
Maud C. Cooke, Manners and Customs of Polite Society
You won't be single for long once the guests taste your walnut sandwiches.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How to Grow Eggplants, 1616

Ulisse Aldrovandi, Il teatro della natura
(vol. 1-1, p. 53, University of Bologna)
"Manie men being verie desirous to adorne and set forth their Garden with all sorts of Plants, doe amongst the rest provide to furnish it with Apples of Love (which the Latines call Mala insana) by reason of the beautie of their fruit, which is as thick as a Cucumber drawing towards a red colour. They must be sowne in the Spring, in a fat and well battild soyle, and where the Sun hath great power, because they cannot abide any cold: they crave the like ordering and husbandrie that the Cucumber doth. Many licorish mouthes... cut them in slices, boyle them in water, and after frie them in the flower of meale and butter or oyle, and then cast upon them pepper and salt: this kind of meat is good for such men as are inclined to dallie with common dames, and short-heeld huswives, because it is windie, and withall ingendreth cholericke humors, infinite obstructions and head-ach, sadnesse, melancholicke dreames, and in the end long continuing agues: and therefore it were better to forbeare them." 
Charles Estienne, Maison Rustique, or, The Countrey Farme 
Do you like common dames, intestinal gas, and sadness? Try fried eggplant.

Friday, July 17, 2015

How to Choose a Sports Drink, 1899

Charles Terront (Le Petit Journal, Sept. 26, 1891)
"The cause of thirst, what best quenches it, what one should not drink, the opinion of the medical profession in regard to the fancy drinks, etc., are all questions which profoundly interest the bicyclist... Of the different fancy drinks, iron tonics, blood purifiers, magic strength-impacters, etc., it is necessary to say very little. Leave them alone, one and all, from A to Z. They are apt to do you more harm than good. It is true the effects of Kola and its class are increased strength, endurance, wind and general well-being, as long as you continue to take them in ever-increasing doses, but when you stop – what then? Collapse... If you require a drink that shall be strengthening as well as refreshing, you can take nothing better than a glass of cool water with a teaspoonful of Wyeth's Beef Juice in it. The nourishment in that will be equal in amount to what is contained in a half-pound of steak."  
Victor Neesen, Dr. Neesen's Book on Wheeling
Looking for a performance-enhancing drink that won't get you in trouble for doping? Try beef juice: so much more convenient than sucking on a steak during the race.

Monday, July 13, 2015

How to Deodorize, 1605

Antonio Salamanca, The History of Psyche (16th c., Wellcome Library)
"We will here discouer and discourse of the lothsome stench of the armepits... and how nearer that the stench is to the nose, so much the lothsomer is it. This stench is augmented through great labour at hot times, through want of shifting and alteration of clothes, through great incontinencie, and through some corrupted humors of the body. Then for to remedie this stench, it is needful (according to the quality of the person) that all such are to be purged and let bloud, and that they afterwards do bath in these odoriferous herbes, as Mints, Melilot, Lauander, Ireos, and such like... Marmalade with spices doth also expel all stench."  
Christoph Wirsung, The General Practise of Physicke
If changing clothes and bloodletting don't do the trick, there's always preserved fruit.

Monday, July 6, 2015

How to Run, 1657

Crispijn van de Passe, Atalanta and Hippomenes, 1602-7
(Rijksmuseum)
Swift motion, renders the body thin and compacted. Slow motion, rarifies and encreases the Flesh… Running, if it be Vehement, is good for Fat and moist bodies, but it is bad for such as are troubled with any kind of Head-ach. If Running be moderate, it excellently warms the Body, excites appetite… Backward, if it be gentle, it is good for the Head, Eyes, stomach, Loins. A Circular motion distends the flesh and belly, and very much offends the Head, uphil, tis bad for the Breast and thighs. Downhil it very much affects the head, it shakes the bowels, troubles weake hips… The body being covered, by moving sweat, it moystens and heats the flesh, but it makes the bodys il colored, because the pure air does not come at them, to clense the same. The body being naked, it draws out great plenty of sweat…”  
Joannes Johnstonus, The Idea of Practical Physick in Twelve Books
Finally, the perfect running program for everyone. Want a sweaty workout that's good for your head? Time for a naked backward jog!

Monday, June 29, 2015

How to Stop Bleeding, 1596

One of those days.
(Wound Man, Wellcome Library, London)
"A very good Medicine to staunch bloud... Take a peece of Salt Biefe, (the leane onely) as much as will lye in the Wound, and lay the biefe in the Embres of the fire, and let it be thorough hote, and when it is hote, thrust it into the Wounde, and binde it fast, and it will foorthwith staunch the blood, & let it lye for a good space after in the Wounde, for the stopping of the bloud." 
A Rich Store-House or Treasury for the Diseased
Too manly for Band-Aids? Try barbecue.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How to Improve Your Brain, 1596

Andreas Vesalius, De humani corporis fabrica, 1555
Wellcome Library, London
A Rule to knowe what thinges are good and holosome for the Braine.
To eate Sage, but not overmuch,
To drinke Wine measurablie,
To keepe the Head warme,
To washe your Hands often,
To heare litle noise of Musicke or Singers,
To eate Mustarde & Pepper,
To smell the sauour of Red-roses,
& to washe the Temples of your Heade often with Rose-Water. 
These Thinges are ill for the Braine.
All manner of Braines,
Drunkennes,
To stand much bare-headed,
Overmuch Watching,
Overmuch Bathing,
Cheese,
Garlicke,
Overmuch Knocking or Noise,
& to smell a white Rose.
A Rich Store-House or Treasury for the Diseased 
 A bouquet of white roses: the floral equivalent of a concussion.

Friday, June 19, 2015

How to Stay Cool, 1723


"When the Sun is in its full Force, there is nothing more refreshing, or affords more Pleasure to Mankind, than cool Breezes, whether Natural or Artificial, which, provided they are moderate and constant, will invigorate the Spirits, and help the Health of the Body. Many of the Curious have already endeavour'd to purchase the pleasing Coolness I speak of, either in Grotto's or Pleasure-houses... The House, Fig. I. should, in my Opinion, be either Round or Polygonal... Fig II. Shews a Chain of Buckets, which may be continually kept working, by means of a Wheel cross the River, and will constantly supply the Cistern on the Top of the House; and the Water being once brought together in a Body, and deposited in a Bason above us, will by proper Pipes give us the Jets and Cascades we desire." 
Richard Bradley, A General Treatise of Husbandry and Gardening
Summer heat got you down? What you need is an indoor water park. Hello, pleasing Coolness!


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How to Avoid Sunburn, 1756


Pierre-Thomas Le Clerc, "Polonaise" (1779), MFA
"Take Deer's Marrow, put it into a sufficient Quantity of Water with Wheat-Flour, and let them settle; then take some Ounces of what subsides to the Bottom and mix it well with a sufficient Quantity of the Whites of Eggs. Plaister your Face with the said Paste when you go to Bed at Night, and wash yourself the next Morning with warm Water. This Method is excellent to prevent Sunburn." 
Abdeker: Or, the Art of Preserving Beauty
The secret to a pasty complexion? Paste.

Monday, June 8, 2015

How to Avoid Bad Weather, 1660

Edward Topsell, The History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents (1658)
"Whosoever are defended by a skin of a River Horse called Hippotamus, are never touched by the Thunder... some say that if you hold a Looking-Glass against the Cloud that hangs over you, the Hayl will pass away:  also if you compass the place with the skin of an Hyæna, Crocodile, or Sea Calf, and hang the same up before the Doors of your house, for then the Hail will not fall." 
Johann Jacob Wecker, Eighteen Books of the Secrets of Art & Nature
Added bonus: nothing says "welcome!" like a crocodile skin nailed to your front door.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How to Choose a Spouse, 1879

Adelaide Claxton, Courting (1868)
"Bright red hair and a florid complexion indicate an excitable temperament. Such should marry the jet-black hair and the brunette type. The gray, blue, black or hazel eyes should not marry those of the same color. Where the color is very pronounced, the union should be with those of a decidedly different color. The very corpulent should unite with the thin and spare, and the short, thick-set should choose a different constitution... The quick-motioned, rapid-speaking person should marry the calm and deliberate. The warmly impulsive should unite with the stoical. The very fine-haired, soft and delicate-skinned should not marry those like themselves; and the curly should unite with the straight and smooth hair." 
Thomas E. Hill, Hill's Manual of Social and Business Forms
Hey, baby. I'm a warmly impulsive rapid-speaker, and you are looking SO stoical.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

How to Care for Your Dog, 1607

Topsell, The History of Four-Footed Beasts (1658)
"It is the nature of a Dogge when he maketh water, to holde vp his legge... the females doe it for the most part sitting, yet some of the genereous spirits do also hold vp their legges. They euer smell to the hinder partes of one another... when they lie downe they turne round in a circle, two or three times together, which they do for no other cause, but that they may the more commodiously lie round, and from the wind. They sleepe as doth a man, and therein dreame very often, as may appeare by their often barking in their sleepe... 
They cannot endure Wine, but bread sopped in Wine they deuoure, dryed flesh & bread in Milke is their safest foode, if Cummin bee now and then mixed in their bread, they are not much troubled with wind in their bellyes. If you put a little Oyle in their Water to drinke or lappe, they will proue more able and swift to runne. If he refuse and loath his meate, take a little whot bread and giue it him before meat, or dip broune bread in vineger and so presse or squise the liquor thereof into his nose, and it will ease him." 
Edward Topsell, The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes
The gassy dog: man's hilarious, appalling best friend since forever.

Monday, May 25, 2015

How to Have Long-Lasting Shoes, 1660

Hans Sachs, Beschreibung aller Stände (1568)
"To be at small charges for Shooes, you may have the best, and almost everlasting, made of the back part of an Ass, where he useth to carry burdens upon: these Shooes will never wear out, for if a Man always walk amongst Stones or Thornes they decay not. But with too much age they will grow so hard that it is impossible to pull them on." 
Johann Jacob Wecker, Eighteen Books of the Secrets of Art and Nature
These ass-leather shoes aren't just footwear, they're a life partner.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How to Defend Your Garden from Pests, 1824

George Shaw, Zoological Lectures (1809), NYPL
"With respect to caterpillars, snails, and slugs, they can only be gathered by hand, and the way to do this effectually is to begin as soon as they appear, employing women or children to look them over daily early in the morning. Poultry, and especially ducks and sea-gulls, are sometimes of use in keeping these and other insects under; a hen and chickens will devour caterpillars and aphides greedily, but are apt to scratch the soil afterwards, if not timely removed; turkey fowls are better." 
John Claudius Loudon, An Encyclopaedia of Gardening
For pest control, try keeping a flock of women and children in your garden this year.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

How to Spend Your Summer, 1465

Walters Art Museum W.175, f. 8r
"Choler rises from May 8 to August 6. Then we should use cold and moist foods, work sparingly and use roast meat in small amounts as we often do before a meal. Drink should be diluted as much as possible so as to take away thirst and not let the body be hot, but we should totally avoid sex." 
Bartolomeo Platina, De honesta voluptate et valetudine
Recipe for a choleric summer: weak drinks, micro-barbecues, and celibacy.

Monday, May 11, 2015

How to Compliment a Lady, 1737

A Group of Figures, c. 1750, Lewis Walpole Library (Yale University)
Amorous compliments endorsed by Wits Cabinet: Or, a Companion for Young Men and Ladies: 
Lady, the Magazine of all rich Treasure is contained in your Perfections.  
Lover, Lady, Those Divine Beams proceeding from your Eyes, are able to thaw the frozen Earth without another Sun.  
Your Voice is such a one, that should the Holy Churchmen use it, it would without the Addition of more Exorcisms, disinchant Houses, and tie up the Night Ghosts that haunt the solitary Groves. 
Turn back your Comet Eyes, or I shall perish in the Flames. 
Her Forehead is a goodly Prospect, that shows like a Castle commanding some goodly Country.   
Her Breasts are two Mountains of Snow, from the two Fountains of which Cupid himself sucks Nectar.
What woman doesn't secretly want to hear that her voice could drive ghosts from a house and her forehead looks like the headquarters of a provincial government? 

More inspiration: How to Compliment a Lady, 1663

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

How to Protect Against Disease, c. 1470

British Library, Burney 275, f. 379v
"Anyone who can ride a bear the distance of nine paces without faltering will be immunized against nine kinds of sicknesses." 
The Distaff Gospels
Vaccinations or a bear rodeo: I think you know which is more fun.

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?