Medical snippets #24: An excellent aperient medicine

Crocus Martis cum Aqua is made by exposing Plates or Filings of Iron to the Rain or Dew, until it hath contracted a Rust, which collected is called Crocus Martis cum Aqua, or ferri Rubigo. This Crocus consisteth of the sulphureous, saline, and terrestrious parts combined together; yea indeed it is the very substance of Iron, having its pores much opened by the Dissolvent or Saline parts of Water; which not only maketh its Pores more open, but by combining with it maketh this Crocus an excellent Aperient medicine, whose Deopilative virtue chiefly dependeth on this Salt.

The Sulphur of Iron being retained in this Preparation renders it a fit ferment for blood, whose active Principles are weak and faint: And the Saline part (being exalted by That of the Dissolvent Water that much laxeth the body of Mars) renders it a good Aperient in Obstructions, as of the Liver, Spleen, Mesentery, Lacteal vessel, or Womb with its coherent parts.’

Samuel Derham, Hydrologia philosophica or, An account of Ilmington waters in Warwick-shire; with directions for the drinking of the same. Together with some experimental observations touching the original of compound bodies (1685)

Balliol College Library shelfmark: 300 i 12 (3)

Medical snippets #23: If thirst be troublesom

‘’Tis also less beneficial for the Patient to drink the Water in the Bath, and contrary to the rules and directions of intelligent Physicians; but if thirst be troublesom, somewhat may be taken to allay that, and half an hour before rising a quantity may be drank, and the rest in bed, if occasion shall require; otherwise to set aside some time for drinking alone, and never, during that time, to use the Bath at all, is what may give both Uses due liberty to exert their operations, and not cramp or supplant one another, as they often do when made use of together. […]

The best time for drinking is in the morning early, from the Pump, at the place it self, if it may be, otherwise, if near, at home, very warm, with a quarter of an hours walking after every Pint or Quart, at utmost; arising from three to six pints, four to eight, or five to ten, as the Body will bear, for no set gage can be given; and the best Rule is, that it ought to be taken pro Tolerantia, every one as they are able to bear, without ingurgitation, or relucting again.’

Thomas Guidott, A discourse of Bathe, and the hot waters there. Also, some enquiries into the nature of the water of St. Vincent’s rock, near Bristol; and that of Castle-Cary.To which is added, a century of observations, more fully declaring the nature, property, and distinction of the baths. With an account of the lives, and character, of the physicians of Bathe (1676)

Balliol College Library shelfmark: 300 i 11 (4)

Medical snippets #22: Fresh gales of air

‘Which puts me in mind of what great relief I have seen instantly given to Hysterical Patients in acute diseases by allowing them fresh gales of air. […]

And within these few dayes discoursing with the learned Doctor Bradey, Master of Caius Colledge in Cambridge, and an eminent practiser in this Town, upon this subject; he was pleased to acquaint me with a very notable observation in confirmation of this assertion, viz. in a Patient of his, who being very highly Asthmatick and Hysterick, and thereby necessitated to keep her bed six winters together, found constant and speedy relief in the paroxysms of the foremention’d distempers, by undrawing the curtains of her bed, putting out the fire in her chamber, and letting in air; and that which was very remarkable, was, that in the greatest of her extremities, if the wind lay in the window, and the casements were opened, she found so great advantage thereby, that not content with what passage Nature had made in her nostrils for air, she would dilate them with her fingers, that it might be more plentifully conveyed to her Lungs.’

Charles Goodall, The Colledge of Physicians vindicated, and the true state of physick in this nation faithfully represented: in answer to a scandalous pamphlet, entituled, The corner stone, &c. (1676)

Balliol College Library shelfmark: 300 i 13 (1)

Medical snippets #21: Over much drinking of brandy

‘Pains in the Head through Heat, are often caused through the immoderate heat of the Sun, or by standing near great flames of Fire, through hot Baths, and violent Motion, strong and hot Scents, and many times through hot Distempers, sometimes through over much drinking of Brandy, and other strong and hot Spirits, and also by drinking of Wine; especially that which is suffisticated; and sometimes this Disease is caused through furious passion, anger, wrath, &c. […]

The Cure of which Disease may be performed as followeth. The Patient ought to forbear all sorts of Meats that are of hard digestion, and Milk, and all such Food that fume up into the Head; also let him abstain from Carnal Copulation, trouble of mind, malice, anger, wrath, and let his Body be kept open with the following Glister.

Take Mallows, Sage, Strawberrie, and Violet-leaves, of each one good handfull. Being Cut and Bruised, Boil them in one Quart of Water, to the consumption of half, then strain it, and add thereto of the Lenitive Electuary one Ounce and a half, Diacatholicon one Ounce, Oyl of Lillies and Violets, of each six Drams, Sal Prunella one Dram; mix them well together, and give it to the Patient Glister-wayes.’

William Sermon, A friend to the sick: or, The honest English mans preservation. Shewing the causes, symptoms, and cures of most occult and dangerous diseases which afflict the body of man. With a particular discourse of the dropsie, scurvy, and yellow jaundice. And the most absolute way of cure. Whereunto is added, a true relation of some of the most remarkable cures effected by the author’s most famous cathartique and diueretique pills, wherewith was cured his late Grace George Duke of Albemarle, &c. (1673)

Balliol College Library shelfmark: 300 i 13 (2)

Cataloguing Crouch: detective work

Much of Nicholas Crouch’s library exists as bound volumes which include between two and fifty distinct bibliographic works. These Sammelbände have been kept together in Balliol College Library since at least 1799, shelved among other tract volumes with varied provenance. Within this collection, Crouch’s books are frequently easy to identify due to his meticulous hand-written contents lists; other typical stylistic features of a Crouch binding are described here.

Many of Crouch’s donations to the college were recorded in the Library Benefactions Book, which provides a list of 319 volumes acquired by the library upon Crouch’s death in 1690. However, we know from comparing the records in the Benefactions Book to the items catalogued so far that not all of Crouch’s books were bequeathed at this time. In particular, many of the Crouch volumes composed of 16th century texts are not listed in the Benefactions Book.

Crouch’s name and bequest are recorded in elaborate calligraphy (Balliol College Library Benefactions Book, page 194)
Crouch’s name and bequest are recorded in elaborate calligraphy (Balliol College Library Benefactions Book, page 194)

At present we don’t know precisely when these unlisted items arrived in the library. A small gift of two volumes is recorded in 1656 as ‘P. Fronseca Metaphysica’, but other than this we haven’t found evidence of additional donations from Crouch. One possibility is that Crouch was also purchasing texts for the college library, and that certain volumes were chosen by him but not intended for his personal collection.

From the descriptions, around half of the Crouch items listed in the Benefactions Book appear to be Sammelbände. These volumes are frequently listed as ‘A Collect. of Tracts’, followed by a description of the first (or ‘ye 1st’) item in the volume.

Many items in the Crouch bequest are listed as ‘A Collect. of Tracts’; others are entered under author and title (Balliol College Library Benefactions Book, page 195)
Many items in the Crouch bequest are listed as ‘A Collect. of Tracts’; others are entered under author and title (Balliol College Library Benefactions Book, page 195)

The remainder of the Crouch books are listed under author and title. These works are scattered throughout Balliol’s collections, frequently uncatalogued. Because they contain only a single bibliographical item, they lack Crouch’s distinctive contents lists and are often more difficult to definitively identify.

One characteristic of many of the Crouch volumes catalogued so far is an early shelfmark in the style:

[format] [capital letter] [number]

These shelfmarks appear to be inscribed in Crouch’s distinctive hand:

Shelfmarks side by side with Crouch MS
(Balliol College Library shelfmarks 910 b 8, 300 i 9, 905 c 1, 915 c 7)

Seeking out these shelfmarks will allow us to confirm the Crouch donations recorded in the Benefactions Book, and to identify volumes not listed there. The shelfmarks may also give us clues as to how Crouch arranged his personal library. It’s estimated that there are between 100-200 Crouch books to be located in this way. These volumes will be gathered together and catalogued as part of the current project, and kept with the Sammelbände. In this way, the majority of Crouch’s library will be reunited for the first time in 300 years.

By Lucy Kelsall
Project Cataloguer

Medical snippets #20: Not altogether impertinent

‘Sir, I hope it will not be altogether impertinent, if I here take occasion to recommend to the young Practitioner, one way of Ligature very useful in Amputations, especially above the Knee; that is to say, a wadd of hard linnen cloth, or the like, inside the Thigh a little below the Inguen, then passing a Towel round the member; knit the ends of it together, and with a Battoon, a Bedstaff, or the like; twist it, till it compress the Wadd or Boulster so very strait on the crural Vessel, that (the circulation being stopped in them,) their bleeding when divided by the Excision, shall be scarce large enough to let him see where to apply his Restrictives, nor shall the pain of that Operation be comparable to what it would be, were not the member nummed by the Compress.’

James Yonge, Currus triumphalis, è terebinthô. Or An account of the many admirable vertues of oleum terebinthinæ (1679)

Balliol College Library shelfmark: 300 i 11 (2)

Endbands and the conservation of the Coningesby catalogues

In which a 21st century conservator uses a medieval technique to repair an 18th century book

The conservation of a four-volume set of 18th century folio library catalogues was recently completed for Balliol College Library.

The catalogues are large, heavy books bound in brown, reverse sheep leather and contain a printed Bodleian catalogue of 1738 with Balliol’s holdings underlined or noted  on interleaved manuscript pages. They form the main record of the large donation left to the College by George Coningesby in 1768. Books belonging to him are marked ‘Cy’ in the catalogue.

These working books showed signs of handling commensurate with their 300-year life in a busy library. Because of their poor condition the books could not be safely consulted without fear of causing further damage.

One of the main problems to be addressed during the project was the weak board attachments; the sewing was still intact but the leather had split along the joints and the cord supports were weak or had completely split. A key element of the treatment proposal was to reinstate the missing endbands. New endbands would not only restore the former aesthetic of the books, they would also form an important structural part of the in-situ repair. The endbands would provide extra strength to the board attachment, and support to the heavy text-blocks, without having to completely re-sew the leaves.  None of the original endbands had survived; however, fragments of thread (tie-downs) still present between the leaves were evidence that they did exist, and that they were alternating blue and natural linen colour –  typical of those commonly found on 18th century Oxford bindings.[1] 

By the 1700’s endbands had lost much of their structural function as bookbinders tried to keep up with increased demand: what was once part of the mechanics, had by this point become simply a decorative part of the binding. [2] Therefore, new endbands were devised for the Coningesby catalogues which took inspiration from earlier medieval bindings; the new endbands would match those now lost but would offer the much needed support which hadn’t been provided before.

Working the endbands: decorative secondary sewing
Working the endbands: decorative secondary sewing

New structural endbands were created using a traditional medieval two-part process: strong primary thread wound around a thick linen core to form the base of the structure, and then thinner coloured thread worked over the top to for decoration.[3] Rather than lacing the cores through new holes pierced into the boards, a less invasive approach was to splay out the ends and paste them between the layers of board which had been laminated together. This provided a strong connection between the loose boards and the text-block. It was important that the new endbands should sit harmoniously with the original binding so new threads were hand-dyed with natural indigo to match the thread that survived. Hand dyeing threads rather than using pre-dyed thread offered a better range to choose from and produced a good match to the distinctive natural indigo colour used in the early 18th century.

The new indigo endband with the cores sandwiched into the boards
The new indigo endband with the cores sandwiched into the boards

The conserved catalogues can now be safely consulted in the Library once more.  The new medieval inspired endbands have contributed to a sympathetic but robust repair which should help to extend the life of these unique books for many years.

18th century Balliol Library catalogue after conservation
After conservation

By Arthur Green 

Book Conservator


[1] David Pearson, Oxford Bookbinding 1500-1640, (Oxford Bibliographical Society, 2000), 50.

[2] Nicholas Pickwoad, Onwards and Downwards: how binders coped with the printing press before 1800, (Oak Knoll Press, 1994), 80.

[3] For more information on medieval endbands see: Arthur Green, A compensation endband: a structural endband for a book with uneven edges. (Journal of the Institution of Conservation Vol. 39(2), 2016) 158-169.