Jun. 18th, 2008 02:52 pm
bunnyjadwiga: (blazon)
Alessio: The Secretes. London, 1558 (Theatrum Orbis, 1975)
The English Experience, no. 707, ISBN: 90-221-0707-8

A very exquisyte sope, made of divers thinges

Take Aluminis catini thre onces, quicke lyme one part stronge lye that will beare an egge of swimming betwene two waters, thre pottels, a pot of commun oyle; mengle all well together, puttinge to it the white of an Egge well beaten, and a dysshefull of the meale or floure of Amylum, and an once of Romayne Vitrioll, ore redde leade well beaten into poulder, and mixe it continuallye for the space of three houres, and it will bee righte and perfite. Finallye, take it oute, and cutte it in pieces: after sette it to drie twoo daies, in the wynde, but not in the sunne. Occupie alwaies of this sope, when you will washe your head, for it is verie holsome, and maketh faier heare.

Sope with Cyvet

Take of the saied Sope as muche as you wyll, and set it a while in the Sunne in Rose water, putting to it the poulder of Cyuette, and mixinge it well. And if you adde to it also Muske, it will be the better, so that the Muske have been before steeped and tempered in rose water.

Sope with divers sweete and excellent oyles

Take of the foresaied Sope, whiche hath stande a while in the Sunne in Rose water, and put to it a lytle of the oyle of Bengewine, or of some other odoriferous oyle, and mixe it well: but you muste putte in of the oyles reasonablie, neither to muche nor to lyttle, but with discretion, accordinge to the quantitie of the Sope.

fol. 54-55.

Bengewine would be benjamin (benzoin). Amylum is starch, probably wheat starch.
Cyvet is Civit.
Aluminis catini may be rock alum of Casino
Roman vitriol is probably Copper sulfate, aka blue vitriol
Both Copper sulfate and Red lead are toxic.


Jun. 3rd, 2008 04:46 pm
bunnyjadwiga: (pop)
Got email last night from Tonwen saying Volume II of the Compleat Anachronist on Medieval Hygiene has GONE TO THE PRINTER! So we should look for it about 2 weeks after the first one... say maybe mid-July...
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
Lookit what I found!

Pomander case, under the wikimedia commons license:

Perfume burners:


Bath (with bath attendant 'cupping' a patron)

1671 paris Bath:

You'd want to crop this:

I sent a scan of the bath-house in this bath of illrepute to Joyce:

Another bathhouse of ill repute:

Cranach's bathers-- a careful look suggests they DO have the permission

A sauna:

Peveril Castle keep latrine

Another latrine view:

16th c. Slovenian castle latrine:

Foot washing:

Hygiene CA

May. 14th, 2008 08:12 am
bunnyjadwiga: (Bath Bunny)
"’And that reminds me. Miss Lydgate’s History of Prosody was marked PRESS with her own hand this morning. I fled with it and seized on a student to take it down to the printers. I’m almost positive I heard a faint voice crying from the window about a footnote on page 97—but I pretended not to hear’" (Sayers, 1995 Harper paperback Gaudy Night, Ch 22, p. 492).

My Compleat Anachronist on Hygiene has had to be split into 2 volumes; Tonwen informs me that Vol. 1 goes to the printer TODAY!
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
In the preceding pages, I have detailed examples of many personal hygiene practices used before 1601. Personal hygiene, clearly, was not completely unknown to our medieval and Renaissance forbears. Teeth and mouths were cleaned, bad breath combated, hands and faces washed, good manners in eating expected, and hair combed and dressed, at least some of the time by some people.

But, to slightly misquote Sherlock Holmes, it is always a mistake to theorize in excess of your facts. Were the modern student of medievalism to be transported back in time, their experiences with medieval hygiene would still be quite a shock to the system. People may have washed-- but not as often as moderns. People took care of their persons and tried not to offend with dirt -- but not the way we are used to. And as we know, the equipment and furniture of hygiene were rather different.

While the medieval laver or lavatory has appeared already, the 'usual domestic offices' which we look for in a modern lavatory will be covered in volume II. Readers interested in bathing, soap, and scents, and the disposal of human waste in the pre-modern period should look forward to it. Such hot and steamy-- not to mention odiferous -- topics yield more surprise as well as fascination.

How does that sound, folks?
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
Recipe from The Secretes of Alexis of Piemont... Fol. 76

To make heare [hair] as yelow as golde
Take the vyne or the scrappynges of Rubarbe, & stepe it in white wyne, or in cleare lye; and after youhave washed your head with it, you shall weate [wet] your heares [hairs] with a sponge or some other cloth, and lette them drye by the fyre, or in the Sunne; after this weate [we] them and drye them agayne: for the oftener you dooe it, the fairer they wyll bee, without hurting your head anye thyng at all.

It's unclear whether 'clear lye' is an actual lye, and what strength it might be at. More tomorrow about the lyes; there's one set of Italian instructions that suggests making a lye for women to wash their bodies and privy parts! by boiling ash in water and then straining it; how strong a lye that might be, I don't know.
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
Research and Re-creating herbalism in the Society for Creative Anachronism has its satisfactions. But it has some big, big frustrations, too.

To begin with, let's leave aside to some extent the alternative lifestylists, the people who dabble in medical herbalism, and want to drag their personal hobbyhorses into our re-creation. If you want to document for me the use of Echinacea before 1601, have at. I like to learn. Besides, I've written here before about the way the social and political environment surrounding modern herbalism shapes and interferes with the study of the use of herbs in history.

People in the SCA are fascinated to some extent by herbs, especially dangerous ones. They want you to teach classes on period poisons; they want to know about herbal contraceptives, about how to cure themselves with herbs and aromatherapy, etc. They are perfectly happy to smear creams on themselves, drink beers, or ask your advice about complex medical problems.

What they don't want you to do is use actual herbs. Especially on site.


An acquaintance of mine once said that we in the SCA would be very well prepared to survive the apocalyptic fall of civilization-- until our inhalers ran out.

Put it simply: the SCA is full of people with asthma and allergies and those who are vigilant on their behalfs (behalves?). Add to that the people who believe that their non-histamine reactions are serious/lifethreatening. These people and their advocates are vocal and active.

In a world where food service professionals put their plastic gloved hands first into the mushrooms, onions, peppers and lettuce in turn when making sub sandwiches, and where commercial enterprises routinely spray us with synthetic scents it's not unreasonable to be concerned about issues of allergens and contamination. In a world where some people believe that everything that is natural is safe, it's natural to be worried about unsafe things being advocated. Over time, we find out that even the most innocuous-seeming substances-- wheat, peanut butter, alcohol, even chlorinated water-- can cause our friends and relatives distress or even kill them. Things long considered inert or even beneficial may turn out, on investigation, to be dangerous.

Pre-modern medicine, even pre-modern cuisine, can be dangerous, filled with hazards that have long been removed in our society, often for good cause. We're very happy, for instance, that mercury is not part of our medicines, and lead isn't part of our cosmetics (though belladonna is sometimes used in medicine still).

And yet... the SCA, and SCAdian re-enactors, have the same hazards as any other part of modern life outside one's bedroom. If you are allergic to roses, or lavender, or mint, those items may well be brought into an environment you are in by someone who doesn't know that. Walking into the shower-house at a camping event means braving an ever-changing cocktail of airborne essential and fragrance oils. Attending an even where food is cooked and served means taking a chance on encountering someone cutting open an orange. Yes, we try to avoid killing our friends, just like your co-workers will rush out that bouquet of roses if you have a rose allergy. But modern life means contact with plants generally regarded as safe, whether you like it or not. Be safe, be sane, and be aware- someone near you might be using lavender oil to treat a cold sore, or drinking mint tea.

And when it comes to consuming re-created products-- no one should feed you a whole nutmeg or some rue. But if you have a counterindication to black pepper, you should know not to eat a teaspoonful of it, whether that be in a herbal breath remedy or a pepper-crusted steak. Every cook in the SCA should be ready to give out a list of the ingredients in their dishes-- and every person in the SCA with allergies and reactions should be aware of what to look for.
bunnyjadwiga: (Senses)
8. Katherine Ashenburg. The Dirt on Clean: an Unsanitized History (New York: North Point Press, 2007)

This popular history of cleanliness and its pursuit is high on my lists of books I must buy soon. I raced through it at a breakneck speed while preparing my CA, and it nearly broke my spirit. The section on medieval hygiene was so good that I truly wondered whether there were any point in continuing my writing!

However, this is a general popular history, and it does leave room for more scholarly and semi-scholarly work. In general, the text lacks footnotes, though there are references listed for the quotations in the back of the book. In addition, the sources for the marginalia are listed at the back, and the bibliography is extensive. The index is also excellent.

Ashenburg does a good job with the Greek and Roman baths, as well as the early Christian conflict between standards of self-denial and reasonable cleanliness. She has the best general section on the mikveh in any of the books I consulted, though it is nowhere near the coverage in Judaism in Practice: From the Middle Ages Through the Early Modern edited by Lawrence Fine. Ashenburg does good work with the medieval, renaissance, and baroque periods, though her chronology is not always clear-- however, she's quite solid on the history of the bidet.

The Dirt on Clean includes a goodly section on the modern development of cleaning standards, though I would say "Clean: A History" is better on some of the 19th c. Philosophy. Ashenburg's focus, however, is more American-- the Beecher sisters' The American Woman's Home is a key text for her. She also gives great attention to the post 1900 and especially post 1950 waves of demonization of the body and its smells. She makes great hay with Horace Miner's 1956 article "Body Ritual among the Nacirema," American Anthropologist, which in anthropological humor satirized our American grooming habits.

Unfortunately, this may be the only flaw I see in the book. Ashenburg is clearly pushing a cause here, similar to that of the Hygiene Hypothesis: the idea that we'd all be healthier and more liberated if we worried less about dirt, germs and cleanliness than we do now. Not that I disagree with her, but she pushes her agenda hard enough that it will cast doubts on this work.

The text is readable, full of useful snippets, and a lot of fun as well as educational. There's definitely a sense of "things you never knew, or thought you knew that were wrong" here. Lots of useful illustrations, as well as the marginalia, spice things up. I'd consider it a good purchase for libraries, too, though I think the reading level is at least high school.
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
The Dirt on Clean Katherine Ashenburg, p. 100-101
says that Mistress Twist, Queen Elizabeth I's court laundress, gave her queen a present of: "four tooth-cloths of coarse Holland wrought with black silk and edged with bone lace."
Ashenburg also says Elizabeth had gold toothpicks and a ruby-studded gold earpick.

At the nether end, she quotes part of a "Song" by John Wilmot Earl of Rochester, 1680... "Song. By all Loves soft, yet mighty Pow'rs" on, ahem, cleanliness of the lady's nether parts: "..using Paper still behind, And Spunges for before." (see
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
The Dirt on Clean, p. 75.
Ashenburg quotes the Ancrene Wisse, a guide for anchoresses: circa 1225-1240 (see )
this is from part 8, plines 179-180:

Wesscheth ow, hwer-se neod is, as ofte as ye wulleth, ant ower othre thinges:
nes neaver fulthe Godd leof, thah poverte ant unorneschipe beon him lic-wurthe.

Which she translates:
Wash yourself whenever there is need as often as you want, and your things, too. Filth was never dear to God, though poverty and plainness are pleasing.

Also, she gives a different translation of the quote from Erasmus' "On Good Manners for Boys":
Care of the Teeth
To brush them with urine is a custom of the Spaniards. Food particles should be removed from the teeth, not with a knife or the nails, in the manner of dogs or cats, and not with a napkin, but with a toothpick of mastic wood, or with a feather, or with small bones taken from the drumsticks of cocks or hens.
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
Again, from the Dirt on Clean by Katherine Ashenburg, p. 63, describing St. Radegund's (6th c) biweekly spate of pauper-washing (the paupers were apparently in very poor health indeed). This was apparently from her medieval biographer, but you can see the paradigm of the modern translator:
cut for the squeamish )
Ashenburg uses this to point out a conflict of two standards, "one a radical asceticism" and the other a more normal idea of body maintenance-- the saints pursed self-denial but assisted others to obtain cleanliness.
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
From the The Dirt on Clean by Katherine Ashenberg, p. 56-57
...mixed bathing was forbidden, though this was not immediately clear to everyone. Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, scolded a devout Christian woman who patronized a mixed bath, which was apparently an unremarkable practice in third-century Carthatge. The woman, who had taken a vow of chastity, responded stoutly that she was not responsible for the motives of people who might look upon her nudity: "As for me," she wrote, "my only concern is to refresh and bathe my poor little body."

Cyprian disagreed, claiming that by delighting the eyes of others with her nudity she was corrupting herself.

In the fourth century, St. Melania, the abbess of a women's monastery on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, successfully petitioned for a bath in the nunnery. Until then, her nuns had been walking down into the city and washing in the public bathhouses.

The objection, however, was to the mixed bathing, not the bathing itself:
Most church authorities did allow Christians to patronize single-sex baths for the proper motives. Clement of Alexandria was a second-century teacher and writer whose views on most subjects were balanced and moderate for his time. In his guide to Christian thought and behavior, the Paedagogus (Instructor), he writes that there are four reasons for visiting the baths-- cleanliness, warmth, health, and pleasure. Christians may not bathe for pleasure, nor (although this is a less serious objection) for warmth. Women may bathe for cleanliness and health, and men only for health-- probably because men could wash in the river, which would be immodest for women. Clement prized the democratic nature of the baths, chiding ostentatious customers who arrived with a parade of servants, "because the bath [has] to be common and the same for everybody." For the same reasons, bathers should wash their own bodies, not relying on the care of an attendant.

Even the austere St. John Chrysostom (ca. 344-407) classed bathing, like eating, with the necessities of life... when the emperor Theodosius punished Antioch by closing its bathhouses in 387, Chrysostom protested that giving up bathing was too great a hardship and that he worried about the old, the sick, children and nursing mothers who relied on the bathhouse to safeguard health.

Ashenburg goes on to point out that many saints and ascetics spurned cleanliness as self-denial and/or a way of rejecting the flesh/protecting virginity, and that Christianity's relationship to cleanliness of person was conflicted.
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
7. Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity, Virgina Smith. 2007.

I raced through this, of course, because I wanted to be sure I hadn't missed anything in my medieval/renaissance hygiene research. But I finished it because it's a good read.

The author starts out with primate grooming rituals, which she refers back to throughout the book, and moves on to ritual purity in early civilizations. Though I'm not entirely convinced she really integrated either of these hooks completely-- primates, after all, groom each other for social reasons, not themselves; and her links between bodily and racial purity are less well-defined than I'd like. On the other hand, the links in each era between ideas of cleanliness and ideas of health are shown and analyzed. The style incorporates solid information, intriguing description, and useful little snippets of primary sources (in translation) to keep the reader engrossed.

However, this isn't just a standard re-hashing of the stuff everyone knows. For instance, most of us probably forgot about the total depilation/shaving an ancient Eygptian priest underwent-- and almost none of us would have made the connection that this depilation was to prevent lice and fleas from hitching a ride into the sanctuary. Smith gives more, and better, coverage to Mesopotamian and Greek hygiene practices than I've seen elsewhere. Her coverage of the Romans is less detailed, but one can go elsewhere for that. Smith addresses both the ascetic movement in early Christianity and its opposite, showing that neither side had it all its own way. Unlike most histories of cleanliness, this one devotes a goodly amount of time to the medieval and Renaissance periods, as well as the 1600s and 1700s. Her discussion of cleanliness and hygiene movements in the 1800s is well-filled with political and social detail, linking the social with the physical. She spends less time on the 20th century, though giving the usual nod to the cleanwashing of the American and British mind. But unlike The Dirt on Clean, she doesn't draw too many social criticisms from it.

It's compulsively readable. However, a sense of progression of time within eras gets sacrificed-- a problem that's easy to have when you try to compress centuries into short chapters. There's also the problem that while there are nods to other cultures, we're really dealing here with Western Culture. Smith has read Vigarello and Biow, and other scholars on the ideals and history of cleanliness, as well as doing her own research. So there's pieces of France, Germany, even Italy represented. Still, it's pretty clearly centered on Western Europe and English-speaking America.

And yet-- I would never have found many of the quotes here myself. The book definitely contradicts much of what we learned growing up and in history class, which is no surprise; but the calm and steady way this scholar-- for scholar she is-- sets up the facts, diverse as they are, will be impressive to those tired of either funny, polemic or just plain silly books on the history of hygiene.

The website about this book is at
bunnyjadwiga: (floor)
Ladies and Gents, I have now submitted a 'final' first draft to the Compleat Anachronist Editor. For those who couldn't open the earlier draft, I've posted this one on GoogleDocs, at

I shall go home and lay down now.
Tomorrow I shall bibliographize about eugenics, which will be a nice change of pace from medieval privies and so forth.
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
In the morning the bath-keeper gives a horn blow, that everything is ready. Then the members of the lower classes [and] polite citizens undressed in the house and walked naked across the public road to the bath-house... Yes, how often the father runs naked from the house with a single shirt together with his equally naked wife and naked children to the bath. How often can I see (that is why I do not go through the town) little girls of 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 years, completely undressed, except for a short linen bath-coat (badehr) often torn. . . They run along the roads at lunchtime, to the baths. And beside them the totally naked 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 year old boys, accompanying these respectable young women.

--Guarinonius, 1610 quoted in Virginia Smith, Clean, p. 172
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
quoted in Clean by Virginia Smith
He took delight in steam-baths at the thermal springs, and loved to exercise himself in the water whenever he could. He was an extremely strong swimmer and in this sport no-one could surpass him. It was for this reason he built his palace at Aachen and remained continuously in residence there during the last years of his life and indeed until the moment of his death. He would invite not only his sons to bathe with him, but his nobles and friends as well, occassionally even a crowd of his attendants and bodyguards, so that sometimes a hundred men or more would be in the water together.

Einhard, Two Lives of Charlemagne...

apparently Charlemagne also complained of short waist-length cloaks then in fashion, "What is the use of these little napkins? I can't cover myself with them in bed. When I am on horseback I can't cover myself from the winds and the rain. When I go off to empty my bowels, I catch cold because my backside is frozen."
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
by Christian Pizan, quoted in Clean, by Virginia Smith:
... fine white cloth, tablecloths, napkins, and other linen made... she will have very fine linen-- delicate, generously embroidered and well made... will keep it white and sweet-smelling; neatly folded into a chest.

(sarah lawson translation, 148)
bunnyjadwiga: (corner)
The Chicago Manual of Style is just whacked. Any citation style that can reduce me to bouncing up and down squeaking "I just want to know where to put the damn commas!" is definitely argh. (Of course it might be easier to work if I wasn't trying to use the ONLINE version of the Chicago Manual of Style...)

Anything that makes you change ALL THE PUNCTUATION-- every single bit-- in your citations when you change them from bibliographies to footnotes or vice versa makes me ill. Let's not even get into the difficulties of trying to interpret the bits about citing online sources without actual examples of said citations.

The things I do for my art...
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
Ok, it is 7:51 on December 31, and I have a lot of stuff in my CA-- 60 pages single-spaced and 157 footnotes and I'm STOPPING for tonight. There's still stuff to be done, but the basics are in there, I think. So, if you're bored, here it is published via GoogleDocs:
I'll be looking for readers... commenters... etc.


bunnyjadwiga: (Default)

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