I made a decision last week. I firmly took myself to task regarding my overflowing bookshelves and informed myself I was not to buy a single new book, (I haven’t browsed my library since early last year), until I started/resumed/finished reading everything I already owned. Fine. I started poking thru the stacks, peeked behind the decorative doodads – thoroughly enjoying myself I might add – when this little gem caught my eye:
Dr. Chase’s Recipes – or – Information – for – Everybody
(um…didn’t mean to make that so dramatic. Still learning this block editing stuff. my apologies.)
This little gem came from a different time and place – in more ways than one. I found this book in one of the best used bookstores I’ve ever shopped. It was located in the charming old town center of Sarasota, Florida. Drift back a couple of decades, technically into the last century, to Sarasota. A sleepy little town -considered at the time to be on the undesirable side of Florida – populated by a mix of locals and snowbirds inundated for a few weeks every year by rowdies, and then left in peace to slumber on. An early morning off season visit to the magnificent white sands of Siesta Key would take your breath away. A sublime moment; seemly endless miles of solitude, grace, beauty, and raw power shared only with sea birds, the sand rakes and the occasional senior citizen. Following such a morning, sunburned to a shade that alarms passing strangers (I could be using sunblock 850,000 and still burn), while wandering the shops downtown Sarasota, I met Dr. Chase.
My edition, printed in 1876, was the seventy-third edition. This little cure all book is in turns hysterically funny, appalling, and a tad scary. A skim through the table of contents alone is mind-boggling. Why you could learn how to make Apple Custard, Blood Root Tincture, and wait…….Opposite page under Index of Illustrations: Shilling Battery! I could make my own Shilling Battery! What’s a shilling battery? And hey- a cure for Deafness? page 118: Deafness. If Recent, to Cure -If not, to Relieve. – Hen’s oil, 1 gill;……..wait… under 2. “Much has been said in France about sulphuric ether first tried by Madam Cleret, of Paris; and, although she lost her reason by the elation of feeling brought on, no doubt, by the honor given her for the discovery, yet the continued trial of the article does not give the satisfaction which had been hoped for, from its first success.” Hey…What? I mean… oh dear…. And so follows the rest of Dr. Chase’ s disturbing little book. I’ll spare you the glossary section and the ‘new to this edition’ section for General Female Debility and Irregularities.
Well. Right about now I usually decide that is enough history for me. Time to leave behind the Mill-Picks and Saw Gummers, the Grain-Side Blacking, for Ten Cents a Barrel, and poor Madam Cleret (and all the others reminisced about in this book), and rejoin – happily- my century- and a new pick from shelf. Although, after experiencing Dr. Chase and his seventy plus editions, I must add: I strongly suspect a couple of centuries from now, a reader will be alternately chuckling and gasping through our books.
Thanks for reading and stay safe.