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Thursday, August 27, 2020

Food Today; Medicine and Science Over a Century Ago

COVID-19 has changed the bookstore landscape this summer, all over the world. Since my Thursday Evening Author series here in Northport was cancelled, I have been neglected this particularly bookstore-focused blog. Bookstore news? The bookstore is open, and we have books – that’s pretty much my news, one week after the next. 

But there are always surprises from one day to the next, and if you haven’t been here since last year there are probably a lot of surprises. 

New This Season

First I want to highlight what I have christened my “Book of Summer 2020,” Emita Hill’s Northern Harvest: Twenty Women in Food and Farming, that book at the top of today's post. And you don’t even have to be a foodie or a farmer to love it, either. It's enough to want stories of real women, of their dreams, how they made them come true, and how they have made the food landscape healthier and more interesting for all of us Up North.

100 Years Ago

But I always have plenty of old books, too, and today I want to highlight a couple from 100 years ago. Both have to do at least in part with physiology, so that either would make an unusual and fascinating gift for someone in or graduating from medical school.

Beautiful Womanhood: Guide to Mental and Physical Development, with a copyright date of 1904, was written by three physicians: S. Pancoast; C. B. Vanderbeck; and Wm. Wesley Cook. The title page notes that the book is “Superbly Illustrated.” Many of the illustrations, even the photographs, are very romanticized, while others get beneath the skin to a graphic depiction of bodily organs. The chapter on testicles is somewhat surprising, in that women do not possess testicles, but of course the whole purpose of women a century ago (as the authors saw it) was to bear children, which is where those wiggly little spermatozoa came into the picture. 

Going now back to a copyright date of 1895 (my copy, an edition and printing from 1919, still 101 years old), we have Search Lights on Health: Light on Dark Corners. A Complete Sexual Science and a Guide to Purity and Physical Manhood. Advice to Maiden, Wife, and Mother, Love, Courtship, and Marriage. (And you thought subtitles were something our generation invented?) Here I think we have greater truth in advertising: Ladies, you need to know about sex! Here it is! And courtship, too – not just female “development” – so table manners are included, as well as advice on feelings such as jealousy. “Improve your speech by reading,” advises another page. Like Beautiful Womanhood, the book illustrates physiology and family, sexual organs and life lessons -- some of the which are still timely today. You'll have for yourself to decide which ones.