The Envious Tooth of Time
Treasury for the Diseased, 1631
This delightful volume, while less lavish than the other works presented here, gives a beguiling glimpse into medical practices in England at the time of Elizabeth I. The author, a relatively obscure doctor named George Wateson (G.W.), proposes in the book’s introduction that it will provide: “Divers and Sundry good Instructions and Rules of Knowledge, very and convenient to be known of all such as are the right Practisers of Physick and Chiururgery.” In other words, it is intended to be a reference manual for doctors and surgeons.
One intriguing aspect of the particular volume in PSU’s collection is that it contains marginal notations in seventeenth-century script, demonstrating that it was in fact consulted and used. Interestingly, the original owner has strong opinions and does not always agree with the author’s advice. The authors treatments can indeed be baffling for a modern reader. Wateson’s cure for “Agues” (fevers, usually associated with malaria), for example, is to “Take a Toste [toast] of Bread and spread, and spread it over with Treacle, and let the Patient eat it before the fit commeth, at least three severall times, fore the space of three dayes.”
The book also treats ailments ranging from “Greene sickenesse” (an affliction that was unique to unmarried young women) to “Hickops” (which can be cured by simply putting fingers in one’s ears). The page displayed here provides a treatment for warts. The author advises: “Take Orpiment [a toxic, bright yellow mineral], and mingle it with Vinegar, and plaster it on the Warts.” The anonymous annotator disagrees, adding: “Rub the warts with fresh Beefe.”