Companion text for the exhibit

Exhibit- herbals and manuals in 16th– 18th c Europe

  • We see that the tradition of herbal and medicinal manuals dates back centuries
  • Books, names, descriptions, and images helped standardize practice and spread information
  • Manuals created in Europe also were widely used in America

What did medical manuals achieve?

17th c Europe

  • Movement to strike a blow against elitist medicine.
  • Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654) – created a medical manual to provide medicine and medical texts for the masses as well as providing free services for patients in London.

What did medical manuals achieve?

18th c America

  • Similar roles- make medicine available to masses
  • At first Americans brought manuals from Europe
  • Luigi Cornaro. Discourses on a Sober and Temperate Life.
  • John Armstrong. The Art of Preserving Health.
  • George Cheyne. Essay on Health and Long Life.
  • S. A. Tissot. Advice to the People in General, with regard to their Health.
  • Nicholas Culpeper. English Physician; and Complete Herbal.
  • William Buchan’s Domestic Medicine, published first in Edinburgh 1769 was reprinted numerous times and common in American homes.

Americans soon created their own manuals

  • In the US in particular this mass production matched the rise of democratization
  • John Tennent’s Every Man his own Doctor: Or, the Poor Planter’s Physician: Prescribing Plain and Easy Means for Persons to cure themselves of all, or most of the Distempers, incident to this Climate, and with very little Charge, the Medicines being chiefly of the Growth and Production of this Country, was first published in Virginia in 1734.

19th c America

  • Late 18th and early 19th century developments saw the proliferation of knowledge and its mass production!
  • In the US in particular this mass production matched the rise of democratization
  • Formally trained doctors could not treat all- on the frontier, and not everyone had faith in doctors (minimal training, heroic medicine, etc)
  • Jacksonian Americans also eschewed the idea of expertise- anyone could do anything
  • Literacy and use of mass production techniques made it possible to market materials to the masses

John Gunn’s Domestic Medicine or Poor Man’s Friend

  • Published in Knoxville in 1830- combined “mainstream medical teachings and frontier resourcefulness.”
  • In its first 10 years- printed more than 12 times
  • Reprinted until 1901

Was all home treatment on the frontier?

Example- Louisa May Alcott, Jo’s Boys, (1886) shows the availability of and support for  home treatments…

  • “Stammering, blushing, and looking both sheepish and gratified, Tom suddenly bolted, leaving the elder lady to enlighten the younger at length, and have another laugh over this new sort of courtship, which might well be called accidental. Nan was deeply interested, for she knew Dora, thought her a nice little thing, and predicted that in time she would make Tom an excellent wife, since she admired and ‘appreciated’ him so much.’I shall miss him of course, but it will be a relief to me and better for him; dangling is so bad for a boy. Now he will go into business with his father and do well, and everyone be happy. I shall give Dora an elegant family medicine-chest for a wedding-present, and teach her how to use it. Tom can’t be trusted, and is no more fit for the profession than Silas.’
  • The latter part of this speech relieved Mrs Jo’s mind, for Nan had looked about her as if she had lost something valuable when she began; but the medicine-chest seemed to cheer her, and the thought of Tom in a safe profession was evidently a great comfort.”