You don't have to understand the world. You just have to find your own way around in it. - Albert Einstein

Saturday, 14 April 2012

my Favourite Things - 102-year-old Medical Encyclopaedia

Hello, dear readers! I didn't want to leave you all in the nasty gloom of yesterday's tale of woe and despair, so now, just for fun, we'll be having a look at one of my most extraordinary salvaged treasures. There may be some who are wondering how looking through an encyclopaedia is something to be celebrated as extra, super, FUN - if that's how you're feeling, well then, you might often find things a little odd around here at The Maroon Diaries.

I found this book about six years ago at the Hobart tip shop Resource Recovery Centre, which means that it was salvaged directly from the tip. To say it's in poor condition might be putting it mildly. It is still technically a book, thanks to the incredible quality of the stitching holding the signatures together, but I sometimes think that it won't be long before it will really just be a pile of related pages. The front cover is missing entirely, and the back cover and spine exist separately to the text block - I just place them together how they should be on the shelf. It just seems the right thing to do. Every time I pick it up or look through it there is danger of further decay - but it's not like I can just leave it on the shelf and never play with it. That would be no fun at all. It's a dilemma.

And so, without further ado, introducing the decidedly shabby Medicology, or, Home Encyclopedia of Health - A Complete Family Guide - Ten Books in One Volume, by Joseph G. Richardson, M.D., William H. Ford, A.M., M.D., and C. C. Vanderbeck, M.D., Ph.D., with Managing Editor, James P. Wood, M.D., and assisted by a Large and Able Corps of Medical Practitioners, Lecturers and Teachers. Copyright 1903, this edition published 1910.

Intriguing chapter titles.

Plenty of anatomical illustrations.

The Picture of Health, apparently, is a young Aryan male wearing lipstick.

Love the pop-up layers. They feature all through the book.

This lady is whitening her teeth with an althea twig, and is billed as 'the picture of Womanhood.'

And she's going to get a lot more advice on being 'womanly' throughout Book IX, Model Home Management,  and Book X, Treasury and Hand Book of Health and Home Information.

Oh my god, I only have eleven dish towels, and one of my mixing bowls only holds six quarts. Not to mention the conspicuous absence of a cherry stoner. Oh dear, I guess I'm stuffed then.

I still haven't been through every section of this enormous tome - I just potter through it from time to time. It really does have a little bit of everything. There's a generous dose of good old-fashioned common sense - something that's struggling to come back in style again. There are all the features you'd expect in a medical encyclopaedia - a complete treatment of anatomy & physiology, diseases (including a three-page entry on a terrible-sounding disease called 'softening of the brain'), drugs, and the stages of life and growth. The sections on growing, cultivating, harvesting and preparing medicinal herbs, preparing decoctions, tinctures, compresses and the like, seems to me to be comprehensive and accurate enough to cover the content of a modern naturopathy & herbalism diploma course. The 'Table of Conception and Barren Periods' is just as fine an introduction to natural fertility management as any. There are nutrition guides that look just like something a modern Weight Watchers-style philosophy would promote. The sections on housekeeping could give the Martha Stewarts and Mrs. Beetons a run for their money. One page contains recipes for mock-turtle soup (the mock turtle is calf brains) and for a damn fine chocolate cake. Really, a housewife could do anything with this book - cure syphilis or poison oak rash, whip up a dinner party for a horde of guests, and get that stain out of the carpet (bullock's gall is the answer). And then there are all these crazy bits that leave you wondering whether you should laugh or cry. I've copied some out here for your amusement/despair for humanity.


Development of Puberty... To the boy approaching puberty... The father had best perhaps tell him something of the change which will occur, and teachers should be patient in cultivating the voice. Singing should not be indulged in until the "new voice" is well established... In girls...It is well in some cases that the mother should tell the girl something of this change which will occur... Many girls are better removed from school...(the) future usefulness of many girls (is) endangered... by injudicious care at this period. Moral companions must be secured...

- from General Care of Children, p.1068


Criminals Should Not Have Children - That criminals should not create offspring is widely accepted. How to prevent this is the question that has excited discussion for several decades among learned men...
Children of Criminals - A large number of their children are epileptics or idiots. With this horde of misfits in the community, there is a constant drag backwards on the wheels of progress. Emasculation is the remedy most certain, and is offered by the most enlightened and advanced men in the world, but few... are prepared to accept so severe a measure. Many people fail... to realise that duty to mankind is above duty to individual man.
Cleansing the World of Disease - The above paragraphs... on criminals are but hints to the thinking, and if followed to their natural conclusion will demonstrate the necessity of cleansing the world of disease by... prohibiting (those afflicted) from perpetuating their kind, which they should have no desire to do anyway if they realise the sort of offspring that will surely be given them.

- from p.1070


Sheep's-Head Soup - Cut a sheep's liver and lights into pieces and stew them in four quarts of water... then put in the sheep's head and boil until quite tender; then it should be taken out and everything strained from the liquor... A glass of wine may be put in... if desired...

- from Art and Science of Cooking, p.1107


A Mother's Responsibility in Child Training
"Mothers," remarked the cynic, "are of two classes: those who have preconceived ideas as to how to bring up their children and won't learn, and those who have no ideas and can't learn."
Ignorance of Mothers - We will probably not all agree to this rather sweeping statement, for most of us are fortunate enough to number among our acquaintances several brave, conscientious women who are true mothers in every sense of the word. But... we must admit that there are lamentably few such examples, and that the majority of women are most woefully ignorant on the important subject of child-training... Possibly because... a mother's labour in the bringing up of her children is not generally considered in the light of a profession... a woman rarely hesitates to undertake this difficult task without a previous study of the subject. The disastrous result of this act is felt not only by the child but also by the thoughtless mother, who alone is responsible for the consequences.

- from p.1225


One Dozen Good Reasons Why a Boy Should not Use Tobacco

1st. Cigarettes or tobacco in any form hinders the growth and injures the nerves and health.
2d. Cigarettes foster the tobacco habit, and may make any boy a slave to it.
3d. The cigarette habit does not help a boy in his life work, and may prevent him from obtaining a good position in business.
6th. Cigarette smoking makes a boy dull and stupid, impairs his memory and prevents his advance in school.
7th. Smoking creates an unnatural thirst, which may lead to drinking intoxicating liquors.
8th. Smoking is a selfish habit which may cause annoyance, discomfort and distress to others.
12th. It is also a filthy habit and defiles the body, and anything that defiles or injures the body is a sin against God, who created man in His own image.

- from pp.1252-3


Entering Upon Marriage
Courtship - The object of courtship should be to study dispositions and affinities, also mental and physical conditions...
Engagement - Engagements should, as a rule, be brief. The spectacle of engaged couples trying each other's patience for years by delaying marriage is a pitiable one. The contract entered into becomes a mortgage without interest.
Affinity - Affinity differs from love. It may exist in the marriage estate, and be productive of comfort and happiness in the absence of the sentiment of love. Yet it cannot be said that the converse of this ... is true...
Mental Condition - ...An ignorant man or woman should not mate with one of education, nor vice versa...
Marriage and Longevity - It is a definitely ascertained result of marriage that it lengthens life, where... conducted in a proper manner...
Physical Forms - Intercourse in the lower animals and in plants is so regulated by experts as to lead to great improvements in the species. This is equally possible in mankind... The brunette may marry well with the blonde, with the hope of modifying parental complexions in offsprings... large-boned people should marry those of small bones; beauty should marry homeliness; those of strong facial contour should marry those with less decided physiognomies; and so on... with the hope of curing in their posterity what may pass for defects in the parents... at least so modifying physical forms as to produce a more satisfactory form.

- pp.1300-02


The Marriage Estate - Things Young Wives Should Know.
...Courage is assigned to man - to woman it is due...
Propagating Likes - Sexual emotion is absolutely necessary to conception. The impress is made at the moment. Every quality of mind or body which is dominant then will undoubtedly determine the fate of the offspring. How... necessary it is then, at that moment, to permit nothing but the most pleasant fancies to occupy the mind... the thought of those actions and things which is most desirable to reappear in children...
Will the Babe be Boy or Girl?
Function of the Ovary - The ovary is undoubtedly the predominant factor in this respect. The only means by which the determination of the sex can be influenced is by the nutritional processes in the ovary. Disturbances in the ovary... seem to determine a preponderance of male ova, while... normal nutritional processes favour the production of females.



Onanism or Self-Pollution - Effects and Remedies.
How Regarded - Some medical writers treat this worst of all youthful, or even adult practices as a habit, others as a disease, and still others as a crime. It is all three, ... but, beyond everything, is a crime against nature, punishable by consequences that are simply appalling.
When to Suspect - ... a youth may be suspected when, at the period of puberty, he seeks to remain in solitary places...
Terrible Effects - This vice soon renders him careless of his parents... indifferent to the sports of his equals... he falls into a distaste for everything except the opportunity of indulgence... the muscles... consequently become soft; he is idle; his body becomes bent; his gait is sluggish, and he is barely able to support himself. The digestion becomes enfeebled; the breath, fetid; the intestines, inactive; the excrements, hardened in the rectum... the skin... is studded with pimples... The corners of the mouth become lengthened; the nose becomes sharp; the sunken eyes, deprived of brilliance... are cast down; no look remains of gayety (sic); the very aspect is criminal... General sensibility becomes excessive... perception is weakened, and memory... destroyed... desires become capricious... envy rankles in the mind... his character is entirely corrupted, or his mind is totally stupefied...

-pp. 1379-81

(I would love to include more of this section, but it goes on for three pages and ends up painting a picture much more terrifying than that 'softening of the brain' caper.)


Marriage in Old Age
Disappointment in Store - One more lesson attested by abundant observation... is that men in...  old age who contract marriage with young or middle-aged women, expecting thereby to render their remaining years more cheerful and happy, are very generally disappointed.
Divorce in Sight - For a... majority of such cases either a divorce court is resorted to in a few months or the men die early from efforts to perform...

- p.1382


See? Didn't I tell you this would be great fun?

I'm still wondering, ever since I bought this book, what exactly to do with it. Is it too far had it to be worthy of a museum type collection? Would it be a terrible shame to further its destruction in order to use the amazing pages for artworks? Please, people, tell me what to do.


  1. lol. I really have fun reading this! and to think that there's thousands more "bit of everything" to read on. I think you should totally keep it :)

  2. You could ask curators if they might accept it. That would be the best chance at preserving what's left of it. There's a Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto that houses many old medical texts. I'm not sure if they would take something in such ill repair, but they might be able to point you to someone that would. Anyway, thank you for sharing!