Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How to Improve Hearing, 1658


“For to make a man hear. Take a red Onion and pick out the top, and fill it full of fair hot Hens grease; and lay the top on again, and rost it in the Embers till it be tender, and then quish out the oyl into the ears of the sick man or woman, and then stop the ears with black wooll.”

Thomas Collins, Choice and Rare Experiments in Physick and Chirurgery

Yes, this remedy will make you hear -- if what you want to hear is the sound of hot chicken fat quishing around in your head.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How to Picnic, 1876

I seem to have forgotten something. The potato salad?
Édouard Manet, Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe, 1862-3
"Invitations for a picnic should be sent out about ten days before the time named, or at least long enough to fill up any vacancies caused by refusals. The food and delicacies of all kinds provided should be abundant, and, of course, cold. It should be sent on to the spot fixed on under the care of the servants. Take care to have carriages which will close in case of rain amongst your conveyances. The above instructions relate to a picnic given by one person to her friends. The ordinary picnic is an arrangement between more or fewer persons to bring provisions, &c., and share expenses. In this case the ladies supply the eatables, the gentlemen the wine." 
Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen, 1876
Picnic must-have list: servants, rainproof conveyances, and plenty of gentlemen.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How to Prevent Sunburn, 1665

Hans Adam Weissenkircher, Helios on His Chariot, c. 1685
"To keep the face from Sunburn, you had best wash with water drawn from the whites of eggs, or juice of soure grapes... or take goats suet well washed in cleare water, beat it in a mortar with rose water, strein it through a thick cloth, then take oile of sweet almonds one ounce, sugar candy two drams, camfre half a dram, boile them all together, stirring them continually that they may be white, when it hath boiled a pretty while put it into a glass for your use. If you goe abroad in the Sun or Wind anoint the face with it, and 'twill preserve your complexion." 
Thomas Jeamson, Artificiall Embellishments (1665)
Don't hit the beach this summer without a jar of homemade goat-fat sunblock. Sun protection factor unknown, ick factor 85.

Monday, June 30, 2014

How to Write a Letter of Condolence, 1867

"To a Friend on the Loss of a Limb by Accident. My Dear Friend,-- I cannot find words to express to you how deeply I was shocked and pained to hear of your sad accident... I am thankful that your right arm has not suffered, as that is undoubtedly the most reliable and useful... If I can be of service to you in any way, remember that to aid you is ever the sincere wish of
Your friend,
Edward Potts."
S. A. Frost, Frost's Original Letter-Writer. A Complete Collection of Original Letters and Notes Upon Every Imaginable Subject of Every-Day Life, With Plain Directions About Everything Connected With Writing a Letter (1867)
Need to write a heartfelt letter of condolence, but too busy to experience real compassion? This handy collection of very specific form letters has you covered. Just don't forget to customize the limb in question. Awkward...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to Dress, 1530

Well turned out, you say?
Francis I of France,  c. 1520-5
"Naturally good or bad taste does exist. Things which are useless to the function of an article of dress, for example, are in bad taste... It was once held to be somewhat effeminate not to wear a belt, but nowadays nobody is faulted for this, because with the invention of underwear, shirts, and hose, the private parts are concealed even if the tunic fly open... Slashed garments are for fools; embroidered and multicoloured ones for idiots and apes... If your parents have given you clothing of a superior elegance, do not swivel about to admire yourself or leap for joy and preen yourself in front of other people, for the former behaviour is for apes, the latter for peacocks. Let others admire while you yourself appear unaware that you are well turned out." 
Desiderius Erasmus, De civilitate morum puerilium
Outfit check: your garments are a sexy monochrome, and you're wearing your best hose in case of tunic malfunction. You're looking fine and you know it. But please stop jumping for joy.

Friday, June 20, 2014

How to Eat a Peach, 1693

John Gerard, The Herbal (1633)
"The excellency of peaches... further appears when we cut a Peach with the Knife, which is, in my Opinion the first thing to be done to them at Table, by any one that would eat them delightfully, and with a true relish, and then we may see all along where the Knife has past, as 'twere an infinite number of little Springs, which are methinks, the prettiest things in the World to look upon... I would have also... that those Peaches which are not smooth, be only covered with a reasonable proportion of soft Down, much hairiness being a certain mark of the want of competent goodness in a Peach." 
Jean de la Quintinie, The Compleat Gard'ner (trans. 1693)
Have you been eating peaches delightfully? A properly sliced peach can induce weird but beautiful hallucinations, provided that the peach is not too hairy.

Monday, June 16, 2014

How to Avoid Stinks, 1706

H. W. Bunbury, "The Battle of the Cataplasm," 1773
"When you are where Stinks are, open your Mouth, and breath through, and you shall not smell it, nor receive prejudice by it." 
Thomas Lupton, A Thousand Notable Things (1706 ed.)
From the century that brought you the French and American Revolutions: a lesser-known revolution in Stinks management.