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.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Past Asks You: 1889 Etiquette


The following questions are taken (verbatim) from The Home Manual: Everybody’s Guide in Social, Domestic, and Business Life (1887). Each question below is followed by the original response along with three modern impostors. Test your etiquette cred by identifying the correct answers!

1. Is it proper to use a knife and fork in eating asparagus, or should the stalks be taken in the fingers?
a) Certainly, knife and fork are obligatory.
b) Never use a knife. Many well-bred people take the stalks in the fingers. If a compromise is desired, use the fork only. 
c) Asparagus has no place on a refined table.
d) Use the knife only. It is prudent to practice the use of the asparagus knife in isolation until elegant mastery is attained.

2. Is it good form for a lady to ask her fiancé to take her to drive?
a) It is acceptable, provided that a chaperone is available to accompany them.
b) No, it would be more proper for her to suggest “Serialized novel and chill?”
c) It is not improper, but ladies usually wait for their lovers to take the initiative, especially in the early days of the engagement. 
d) It is acceptable if the engagement has persisted for more than six months.

3. On what occasions is it proper for a man to wear a “tourist shirt?”
a) When traveling abroad in warmer climes.
b) When the need for armpit ventilation eclipses the desire for self-respect.
c) When yachting, playing ball or tennis, or in the woods.
d) This custom is never acceptable among those of good breeding.

4. Is it proper to wear a black silk hat in summer, if a man dislikes the light colored ones?
a) No, it is contrary to custom.
b) Tasteful shades of pale blue and violet may be permitted.
c) Only if he is a Dickensian villain named Mr. Gloombridge or Sir Tetchbottom.
d) This custom is gaining acceptance among younger men but should not be adopted by a man above forty.

5. If a gentleman meets a lady in a large retail store and wishes to talk with her, is it allowable for him to replace his hat after removing it to bow?
a) No, courtesy dictates that he hold the hat until the parties take their leave.
b) No, but he may place it in the front compartment of his ample Costco shopping cart in order to assist the lady with her party size hamper of frozen meatballs.
c) Yes, for in a large store, where a number of people are passing to and fro, the same rules apply as when persons meet in the street.
d) He may replace his hat only if the lady authorizes him to do so.  

1. b 2. c 3. c 4. a 5. c

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

How to Pack Lunch (Businesswomen's Edition), 1889

Godey's Ladies' Book, December 1884
"Portable Lunches... To women breadwinners how to have some change from the fare they daily carry with them, and which, perhaps, has long since palled on their tired palates, is a very puzzling and important question…  It will seem almost a mockery, perhaps, to tell tired business women to do anything that will encroach on their precious time. Yet good, enjoyable food is health, and, if they are well nourished, they will be more vigorous, and perhaps feel more inclined to take a little trouble… 
Chocolate sandwich.
Cut thin slices of bread and butter as for other sandwiches, have a cake of sweetened chocolate in a warm spot over night, or long enough to become soft like cheese. Scrape it and spread thickly over the bread and butter, then make into sandwiches. This sandwich, when the appetite is jaded and craves variety, will be agreeable to chocolate lovers. A cake of chocolate between two crackers is another form of it." 
Mrs. John A. Logan, The Home Manual
Age-old secret of successful businesswomen: the chocolate sandwich. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

How to Swim, 1587

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
 “The times which the temperature of this our climate affords as good to swimme in, is comprehended in foure monethes, May, Iune, Iuly, and August... thence commeth a more vehement heate, which dooth temperate the water, and make wholesome the ayre... In the place is two things especially to be respected, first, that the bancks bee not ouergrowen with ranck thicke grasse, where oft-times, doe lie and lurke many stinging Serpents, and poisoned Toades: not full of thornes, bryers, stubbes, or thistles, which may offend the bare feete... Next that the water it selfe bee cleare, not troubled with any kinde of slymie filth, which is very infectious to the skin... Also that there be not in the bottome of the Riuer any olde stakes or sharpe stones, which may greatly indaunger the Swimmer... let him associate himselfe with some one that is taller and stronger then himself, which may both comfort him, and helpe to sustaine him, for that at the first enterance, the chilnes of the water will greatly discomfort him.” 
Everard Digby, A Short Introduction for to Learne to Swimme
 A few rules for summer swimming fun: avoid poisoned toads, and don't forget to bring a muscular friend to comfort you in case the water is cold.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

How to Have a Healthy Summer, 1656

June calendar page, 16th c.
J. Paul Getty Museum, MS Ludwig IX 16, f. 6r
 "The regiment for the time of Summer, June, July, and August. The shepheards in summer been clothed with light gowns and single, their shirts and sheets that they ly in be linnen, for of all cloath it is the coldest... and they eat light meats, as Chickens with veriuyce, young Hares, Rabbets, Lettise, Purselain, Melons, Gowrds, Cucumbers, Peares, Plumbs... They drink oft fresh water when they be thirsty, save only at dinner and supper time, and then they do drink feebl green Wine, single Beer, or small Ale. Also they keep them from over great travell, or over forcing themselves, for in this time is nothing grievouser than chafing. In this season they eschue the company of women, and they bathe them oft in cold water to asswage the heat of their bodies enforced by labours. Alway they have with them sugarcandy or other Sugar whereof they take little and often." 
The Shepheards Kalender
Ah, summer: season of cool linen, refreshing vegetables, and &#$*% chafing.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

How to Lose Weight, c. 1330


Tacuinum sanitatis, Biblioteca Casanatense 4182 (14th c.)
“They should eat foods of little nourishment, great bulk, and quick digestion, and often bathe before they eat… they should eat many vegetables with sharp vinegar dressings… they should exercise frequently and swiftly before eating, and tolerate hunger. They should accustom themselves to eating once a day and sleeping less, and they should drink old and fine wine…. sleeping little and in a hard bed, frequent sex, and spending time in the sun and in warm houses all make a fat body become slender.” 
Maino de' Mainieri, Regimen sanitatis
Your medieval summer weight-loss plan: sunbathing, sex, and... salad.

Friday, May 6, 2016

How to Dye Your Hair Blonde, 1650

Nicolas Arnoult, Recueil des modes de la cour de France (1687), LACMA
"How to make ones haire to become of a yellow Golden Colour. Take the rinde, or outward parings of Rhubarbe, and put them to steep in Whitewine, or clear Lye; wet a spunge or linnen cloth therein, and  anoint your haire therewith, and let them dry before the fire or sunne; the oftener you do this the sooner they will become yellow: note that before you use this, it is good to clear your head and hair from sweat, and all other filth whatsoever." 
A Brief Collection of Many Rare Secrets
Your new summer hair look: golden color, rhubarb flavor, and no filth whatsoever.

Friday, April 22, 2016

How to Stop Sneezing, 1680

Allegories of the Senses (1561), Wellcome Library
"To stay the sneezing scratch the Soles of the Feet and Palms of the Hands; rub the Eyes and Ears; smell to white Lilly, and Bath your hands in warm Water... The Phlegm that runs from the Nose like Snot is stay'd by proper Remedies for the Cure of the Brain, whereby the Spring of such Noisome Humors is dryed... use some proper Syrup to correct the ill scent of the Snot's abundance." 
The Country-Mans Physician
Allergy season self-care: foot-scratching, hand-washing, fragrant lilies, and getting rid of the #*$&@ brain snot.

Friday, April 8, 2016

How to Use Asparagus, 1568

John Gerard, The Herball (1636)

"Asparagus cooked with wine alleviates pain of the loins and kidneys, provokes urine, loosens the stomach, and frees the liver and kidneys from attacks, especially the roots and seeds. But if asparagus is used too much, it brings great harm, since it expels urine quickly, and irritates the bladder, which is bad. It is believed to incite lust… asparagus is a helpful food for a man, especially a newlywed having trouble in bed with an eager spouse: if at first he is unable to please his wife, this will allow him finally to have a sweet and loving partnership." 
Hugo Fridaevallis, De tuenda sanitate 
Ah, springtime, the season of love: the birds, the bees, the newlyweds gobbling asparagus...

Thursday, March 24, 2016

How to Use Dry Shampoo, 12th century

Luttrell Psalter, British Library Add. MS 42130, f. 63r (1325-40)
"When she combs her hair, let her have this powder. Take some dried roses, clove, nutmeg, watercress, and galangal. Let all these, powdered, be mixed with rose water. With this water let her sprinkle her hair and comb it with a comb dipped in this same water so that [her hair] will smell better. And let her make furrows in her hair and sprinkle on the above-mentioned powder, and it will smell marvelously." 
The Trotula
Running late for work? No problem – just grab a comb, raid your spice cabinet on the way out the door, and you'll be fresh and sweet as a medieval noblewoman.

Monday, March 7, 2016

How to Converse Politely, 1595

John Bulwer, Anthropometamorphosis
(1653), George Peabody Library
"It is also a fowle and unseemely thing for thee to make faces, in wrything thy visage into divers formes: or, to rub one while thy nose, another while thy forhead: or, one while to lift up thine eye browes, another while to pull them down too much, or to patter with thy lips; or, one while to thrust out thy mouth too much, another while to pul it in over-much, or to shake thy head, or to cough, unles thou be there too inforced: or to spet oft, or to scratch thy head, to picke thine eares, or to blow thy nose, or to smoothe thy face with thine hand, as if thou wouldest wype away shamefastnes from thee: to bee picking or rubbing thy neck, as if thou wert lowsie: or to clyng in thy shoulders, as some Italians use. All these are evill." 
William Fiston, The Schoole of Good Manners
 OMG stop picking thine ears and seriously what is with all the spetting?!

Monday, February 22, 2016

How to Give Up Wine, 1658

A Warning-piece to All Drunkards (1682),
Wellcome Library, London
There are many who when they have drank much Wine, that is the worst thing in the world for them, fall sick, and die of it. Now if you would refrain, and abhor Wine and strong drink... let three or four live eels, put into the Wine, stay there till they die. Let one drink of this Wine, who is given to drunkenness, and he will loath Wine, and always hate it, and will never drink it again: or if he do, he will drink but little, and with much sobriety. Another way: wash a Tortois with Wine a good while, and give one of that wine to drink privately, half a cup full every morning for three days, and you shall see a wonderful vertue.
Giambattista della Porta, Natural Magick
The sommelier recommends: a full-bodied red wine with notes of tortoise grime and a lingering aftertaste of eel death.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

How to Use Wheat, c. 1150

Tacuinum sanitatis casanatense (14th c.)
 "Wheat is hot and full of profit. Nothing is lacking in it… But, if anyone sifts out the bran from the flour (which is semolina), and then makes bread from that flour, the bread is weaker and more feeble than if it had been made from the proper flour… Whosoever cooks wheat without the entire grain, or wheat not ground in the mill, it is as if he eats another food, for this wheat furnishes neither correct blood nor healthy flesh, but more mucus. It is scarcely digested. It is not at all good for a sick person, even if a healthy person is able to survive on this food… If someone is ailing in his back or loins, cook grains of wheat in water, and place them, warm, over the place where he is ailing. The heat of the wheat will chase away the powers of that disease." 
 Hildegard of Bingen, Physica  
An advisory from the Medieval Grain Council: white bread will turn you into an ill-blooded mucus-monster. Also, have you tried porridge on your loins? 

Friday, January 22, 2016

How to Plan for Snow, 1600

British Library, Add. MS 35313, f. 1v (c. 1500)
"Now the daies are shortened, & the nights prolonged, winds are sharp, snow and suddaine inundations of waters arise, the earth is congealed with frost and ice, & all liuing creatures do quiuer with cold. Therefore a man must vse warme and drie meates: for the cheerefull vertues of the bodie are now weakened by the cold aire, and the naturall heate is driuen into the inward partes of the bodie, to comfort and maintaine the vitall spirites. All rost, baked, or fried meates be good; and so are boyled beefe and porke. Veale agreeth not, except it be well rosted. Also wardens, apples and peares may be vsed with wine or with salt for swelling, or with comfits for windinesse. Beware least the cold annoy your bodie. And aboue all things haue a regard to keepe your head, neck, and feete warm. To vse carnall copulation is expedient." 
William Vaughan, Naturall and Artificial Directions for Health
Snow day action plan: fried meat and chill. (But for the love of God, keep your socks on.)

Friday, January 15, 2016

How to Improve In-Law Relations, c. 1470

J. Paul Getty Museum MS 27, f. 46v (c. 1430)
"If a woman very much wants her husband to love her relatives and friends whom he has never liked, when they come to visit her with their dog, she must collect urine from the dog and give some to her husband to drink, in barley beer or in a soup, without his knowledge. And after he has given a warm welcome to the dog, he will be friendly with the people the dog loves."  
The Distaff Gospels
Your husband will be humping the whole family's legs in no time.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

How to Survive the Winter, c. 1200

J. Paul Getty Museum MS 14, f. 3r (13th century)
"Winter is damp and cold: we should turn to food. Nourishment should be delicious in the winter. Neither purging nor bloodletting is helpful then, and encounters in bed with your lady friend should be moderate." 
Daniel of Beccles, Urbanus magnus
If your New Year's resolutions involved less eating and more sex, you might be in trouble.