Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2015 Issue

Old Medical Books from Yesterday's Muse

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A medical catalogue.

Yesterday's Muse Books has issued a Medical Catalog. First a word of warning – use this for collecting and historic research. Don't follow the advice of the books herein. The greatest concentration is 19th century medical texts, and their recommendations are not likely to work much better today than they did when the average lifespan was 40 years. There was little understanding then of what caused illnesses, making cures very hard to come by. Standard therapy entering the 19th century was an unholy triad - “bleeding, puking (puke weed) and purging.” More physicians were starting to conclude that this was not very effective. Still, with antibiotics, even sulfa drugs, a century away, many turned to various vegetable compounds and the like, less harmful, but equally ineffective. This attempt at an alternative resulted in the explosion of patent medicines, ineffective placebos that did little but make a lot of money for their merchants. It is in this environment that most of these medical guides were written, most well meaning, some actually providing good advice, perhaps accidentally, such as healthy diets and exercise. Here, now, is a look back at medicine as it was.

 

In the days before there was much in the way of systematic research, people tended to make up medical theories that sounded reasonable to them, even if they had no basis in fact. Item 15 is An Inquiry into the Cause of Natural Death, or Death from Old Age, by Homer Bostwick, published in 1851. Bostwick believed life was a series of physical degradations, concluding in death. The cause, he concluded, was “calcareous earthy matter,” more specifically, phosphate of lime (calcium phosphate). Therefore, the secret to youth and good health was to avoid foods containing this substance, such as salt, grains, certain food additives, river and spring water. However, Bostwick did stumble into some good advice as he recommended eating more fruits, vegetables, fish and fowl, foods much better than what the average American consumes today, though his reasoning was to avoid “calcareous earthy matter.” Priced at $125.

 

Item 81 gives us a look at the movement away from the harsh “remedies” of the early 19th century to more gentle, herbal solutions: New Guide to Health; or Botanic Family Physician, by Samuel Thomson, the third edition published in 1832. Thomson was a self-taught medical man, developer of what became a popular system known as “Thomsonian Medicine.” Like Bostwick, he liked vegetables, but prepared into herbal remedies as opposed to meals. Thomson developed his remedies after his wife nearly died from typical medical treatment of the day. Ultimately, Thomson would be roundly attacked by the medical establishment, and his cures were not medically effective, and yet he did contribute to the advancement of medicine by throwing light on the miserable practices of the day. American National Biography describes his contributions thusly: “The significance of his work is not in any contribution to medical science but in the strong influence he created against the prevailing practice of the day, in which bleeding, calomel, and opium were the ruling remedies.” $250.

 

The other point of view was expressed by Caleb Ticknor in 1838 in A Popular Treatise on Medical Philosophy; or, An Exposition of Quackery and Imposture in Medicine. Ticknor was a physician, and believed in the value of traditional medicines. This is not to say he was against vegetable medicines, but believed that scientific testing of efficacy was required, and pointed out that herbal medicines, if abused, could be just as dangerous as chemical medicines when abused. Ticknor was free in using the term “quack” to describe those who advocated unproven patent medicines. Item 83. $95.

 

We certainly would not want to put this next item under the heading of quackery. No, not at all. Item 9 is Baunscheidtismus or the New Curing Method, Improved by Dr. J. Firmenich... published in 1862. If you aren't familiar with Baunscheidtismus, let alone know how to pronounce or spell it, it is because the practice does not appear to be in vogue these days. Its developer, Carl Baunscheidt, was not a doctor. He was more of an inventor, though of dubious merit. One day, a swarm of gnats alighted on Baunscheidt's arthritic hand, several biting him. He noticed the arthritic pain went away. That was all Baunscheidt needed to come up with a medical explanation, and a device to mechanically perform the gnats' cure. He concluded that the openings in his skin caused by the bites enabled the “morbid accumulations” causing his pain to escape his body. So, he invented a device called the lebenswecker (life awakener) to serve as artificial gnats, so to speak. It consisted of a series of sharp needles in a spring loaded mechanism. Set if off, and the needles stabbed the patient, creating the necessary openings to let the bad stuff escape. He then poured a toxic oil on the wound, which caused it to become irritated and blister, as the oozing was a sign of the poisons leaving the body. This, he concluded, was similar to the healing action of the poison in the gnat bites that cured him. Firmenich, explains that “Baunscheidtismus desires to deliver the world from the errors and abuses of the old faculty of physic...” Sadly, it introduced a new series of errors and abuses. $150.

 

A medical book not published until 250 years after it was written is likely to be out of date, but this one is very interesting anyway for its historical value, both as a look at colonial America, and the thinking of its author, perhaps the most important American theological figure before the Revolution. Item 56 is The Angel of Bethesda: An Essay upon the Maladies of Mankind. It was written by Cotton Mather from 1722-1724, and while excerpts were published at the time, this is the first edition of the complete work, published in 1972. Cotton Mather was a major religious figure, his reputation forever tarnished by his tacit approval of the Salem witch trials. However, his interests ranged far and wide, and medicine was among them. His work was long ignored as it mixes religion and the occult with medical science. As the book's jacket notes, “Mather's remedies were a mix of the bizarre, benign and beneficial.” It should be noted that while Mather's background was not ideally suited for medical advice, he was an early, vigorous proponent of a very controversial procedure at the time – inoculation for smallpox. It would take most of the remainder of the century for people to become convinced, but Mather was medically correct on this one. $30.

 

This next book is of some note, though not so much for its medical breakthroughs. Item 75 is The Theory and Treatment of Fevers by John Sappington, published in 1844. Sappington criticizes the bleeding and purging of other doctors at the time, and instead recommends “vegetable alkaloids” to cure fevers. Sappington also just happened to make some pills containing these substances. However, Sappington's remedy was actually somewhat effective, unlike the typical patent medicine, as he used quinine, a natural medicine that does help. What makes Sappington's book particularly notable is that it was printed in Arrow Rock, Missouri, and is generally regarded as the first medical book printed west of the Mississippi. $175.

 

Yesterday's Muse Books may be reached at 585-265-9295 or yesterdays.muse@gmail.com. Their website is found at www.websterbookstore.com

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €
  • <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Harriet Tubman Cabinet Card by H.S. Squyer, Auburn, NY, 1892. $10,000 to $15,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Scarce <i>Events of the Tulsa Disaster,</i> First Edition, 1922. $4,000 to $6,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Unpublished CDV of Frederick Douglass by Benjamin F. Smith, 1864. $3,000 to $5,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> California Imprint of <i>President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation</i> Broadside, 1864. $10,000 to $15,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> John C.H. Grabill Cabinet Card of Buffalo Soldier Wearing Buffalo Coat, ca 1886. $8,000 to $10,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Rare <i>What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking,</i> 2nd Cookbook Published by African American. $6,000 to $8,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Frederick Douglass Walking Stick, 1888. $3,000 to $5,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Only Known Slave Narrative Published Independently in California, <i>Life and Adventures of James Williams.</i> $2,000 to $4,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Rare First Edition of History of Black Literature, Abbé Grégoire <i>De La Littérature des Nègres</i>. $2,500 to $3,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> African American Soldier and Medal of Honor Winner Christian A. Fleetwood CDV, PLUS. $8,000 to $10,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Jack Johnson vs. Jim Jeffries Pennant, 1910 Reno, Nevada. $2,000 to $4,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Joe Gans Photograph at 1906 Goldfield, Nevada Fight by Percy Dana. $600 to $800
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Jane Austen, <i>Sense and Sensibility: A Novel, By a Lady,</i> 3 volumes, London, 1811. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Virginia Woolf, <i>Kew Gardens,</i> limited edition, signed by Woolf & Bell, London, 1927. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> <i>[Arabian Nights],</i> Calcutta II version, 4 volumes, Calcutta & London, 1839-1842. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Princess Diana, 6 ALS to <i>Harper’s Bazaar</i> editor, anticipating Christie’s sale of her dresses for charity, 1995-97. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Jane Austen, <i>Emma,</i> first edition, London, 1816. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Hirohito & Nagako, Emperor & Empress of Japan, 2 photographs signed, showing Nagako in kimono & obi bearing the imperial seal. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Princess Diana, 6 autograph letters signed to <i>Harper’s Bazaar</i> editor Elizabeth Tilberis, anticipating Christie’s announcement of a sale of her dresses for charity, 1995-97. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Sarojini Naidu, complete galley proof of <i>The Broken Wing</i> signed with several holograph pages & an autograph letter signed to writer Edmund Gosse, 1916. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Fernando Pessoa, <i>Mensagem,</i> first edition, presentation copy, signed & inscribed, Lisbon, 1934. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Graham Greene, <i>The Basement Room,</i> first edition, Greene’s personal copy, signed with annotations throughout, London, 1935. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Abraham Lincoln, partly-printed document signed, call for troops issued during America’s first national draft just days before the NYC draft riots, 1863. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b><br><i>Les Chansons de Bilitis</i> by Pierre Louÿs, illustrated by George Barbier & F.L. Schmied, Paris, 1922. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.

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