bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
If you've read or skimmed The Big Necessity or, alternatively, have read Charlotte MacLeod's mystery novels set at a fictional agricultural college which powers itself with a methane plant, you might be interested in this article from CNN on a farm producing power from the waste of its 600 cows:
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters by Rose George. (Metropolitan, 2008)

Doing research for my historical hygiene pamphlet led me down a wide variety of fascinating byways-- or should I say drains? So when I heard about this modern treatment of the topic, I had to read it.

It's worth it.

George covers the sewers of London, the World Toilet Organization, Biogas systems in China (where human and animal manure is composted together to produce burnable fuel gas for the rural family's home), the Japanese ultra-specialized toilet industry, sanitation efforts in less-developed countries including the problem of societies where "open defecation" prevails as well as "helicopter toilets" (where people eliminate into a plastic bag and throw it somewhere...), the processing of 'biosolids' (sewage sludge) into fertilizer and its benefits and dangers, among other topics.

While I'm lukewarm about her topical organization, I think that George's big strength is her amusing and sharp writing combined with a flair for the personality and the anecdote, which she finds in abundance here. From the founder of the World Toilet organization, through specific biogas-using Chinese ladies, there's an abundance of personalities here. There's also a lot of controversy, which George does not avoid.

What she does do is present both sides of most topics-- talking to the enthusiastic head of a highly scientific, class-A+ biosolids producing facility and on the other hand, a campaigning, anti-sludge activist who has documented hundreds of sludge related illnesses in her community and elsewhere, for instance-- first you find yourself all pro-biosolids and then pulled back into caution. I for one will never walk near what looks like a sewerpipe or a commercially fertilized field with the same insouciance again.

She also discusses the shame and the social constructs of human waste, and how they affect the way societies address the issue. (It's fascinating to learn tidbits such as the report that mothers asked to rate the offensiveness of several unlabelled dirty diapers indentified their own baby's as less disgusting.) This too has a serious side, of course, because that's how the problem of human waste goes unaddressed. Apocalyptic thinkers may ask themselves how long public investment averse communities (like, say, California and New Jersey) can avoid the fate of cholera-ridden Zimbabwe if all goes to heck. Development loving liberals will wonder what we can do to make conditions better, and the green treehuggers will wonder if we can make things better for the environment. Business and politics types may enjoy the profiles of marketing and planning successes and fiascos, though engineers will probably feel there is in no way enough detail.

Definitely worth reading, and not just in the bathroom.

Slate posted excerpts from this book at: http://www.slate.com/id/2201466/entry/2201467/

Rose George has a blog at: http://rosegeorge.com/site/category/blog/
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
Book I, Chapter X
Above all he cautions them not to wash their hands, as it is the habit of other men to do in the morning; for he tells them that to do so constitutes a sure obstruction to his incantations. This is the case whether it is the witches themselves who was their hands, as we learn from the answer freely given to her examiners by Alexia Gallaea of Betoncourt at Mirecourt in December 1584, and by countless others whose names I have not now by me; or whether it is the intended victims of their witchcraft who wash their hands, as was stated by Claude Fellet (Mersuay, February 1587) and Catharina Latomia (Haraucourt, February 1587)....


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.
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
To Make Whyte Teeth (from The Seconde part of the Secretes of Alexis of Piemont) p. 2 face and verso
Take Limons, and make distilled water of the, and wasshe youre Teeth with it, of it is a soueraine thynge, or yf you will not make the water, take the licour of the which is also good for the same purpose, but the water is much better, bicause it is finer, so that in distilling, it lose not his force.

For the same:
Take Lees of wine called Tartarum, and put in a vessell of Marble, and stope it surelye, than burye it in the grounde, and let it remayne there untyll it become water, and then take it out, and rubbe your teeth with it, and thei will waxe very faire. Take also the water that falleth at the beginning of the distillatcion of salte Peter and Alome, and rubbe your teethe with therwith. If you take also the roote of Mallowes and rub your teeth with it euery daie, thei well be bright, white, and fayre without hurting the gommes. Or yf you take a cruste of wheaten bread, and burne it euen to coales, and than hauing made it to powder, skower youre teeth wythall, and washe them afterward with cleane and faire water, either of the Welle or of the Conduite, they will bee white, for it is a thing experimented.
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)
Alessio, The Second part of the Secretes, p. 18-19.

For the stinkinge of the breath, and to make the teeth whyte.
Take a pound of skimmed Hony, halfe a pound of Aqua vite, three onces of Lignum aloe, two onces of gomme Arabick, Nuttemegges, Galingale, Cububes, Cinamome, Masticke, Cloves, Spic, and Lavander new, anna three drammes, tow drammes of Amber beaten, mix all this together, & still water of it in a limbeck, and this water will take away the stinking of the breath, whiten the teeth, and maintaine helth long.

A water to make cleane teeth.
Take salt Armoniac, and salt Gemma, three onces of eche one, an once & a halfe of alumen Sucharinum, and distill it, or temper it in two pound of water, the space of eight daies, & with this licour distilled or so tempered, you shal rubbe your teeth & they will be whyte.

Another water to whiten teeth,
Take a pound of salt well purged, and beaten, an once of Alumen Glaciale, & distill it in a limbeck, and mingle an once of the water, with an once of Plantaine water, and rubbe your teeth with the composition, and with cotten, and they will be white and cleane.

To take away the smell of Garlike, Leekes, or Onyons.
After that you have eaten Garlike, Leekes, or Onions, take the roote of Beete, & rost it under embers, and eate it, & you shall see the effect; or els eate a piece of the rote of Zeduaria, & you shal not smell at all, and this is easier to be done than with the roote of Beete.

Spic is probably spike, which may be spike lavender.
Aqua Vitae is distilled spirits
Lignum aloes is aloeswoood (Aquilaria species?)
I have no idea what 'anna' is there.
gomme Arabick is Gum Arabic; Acacia gum.
Salt armoniac shoule be Sal Ammoniac, ammonium chloride, NH4Cl
Salt gemma may be salgemma, halite, AKA natural salt.
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)

To make that the Mothes and Vermine shall not eate nor destroy e clothes and apparell.
Take Wormwoode, or Southerwoode, the leaves of a Cedar tree, & valerian, and laie them in your coffers or presses where your clothes be, or in the pleites of your garmentes, and you shall see that they wil not hurt them, bicause these leaves & herbes are bitter of tast, and the savour or smell is very stronge, which the vermine, doe abhoyre, and can not abyde.

p. 14.
Alessio. The Seconde Parte of the Secretes: London, 1563 (Norwood, NJ: Walter J. Johnson Inc, 1977). Vol 839, The English Experience.
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)
Translating into English from a reprint of Yale Medical Library MS. 47...
Cut for LOTS of period Girly TMI!
Read more... )
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
After having spent a goodly amount of time thinking about sanitary supplies for menstruation in pre-modern cultures, I feel obliged to talk about the movement to donate new, unused, reusable sanitary pads for young women in developing countries. Crunchy Chicken came up with this idea:

Great idea. However, I've never tried to make/use something of this sort, so the instructions she points to are driving me batty. I want something that tells me what kind of fabric and where I can likely get it, as well as patterns. I think this is a great idea, but I really am not in a position to research the entire reusable hygiene supplies movement before doing this.

If someone who is familar with these has clearer instructions or comments on a particular pattern that make them easier to figure out, maybe we can get a group together to make a bunch of these and ship 'em out. (P.S. what keeps them from twisting around, by the way?)
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 http://dev.hil.unb.ca/Texts/EPD/UNB/view-works.cgi?c=wilmotjo.1504&pos=1)
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
The Dirt on Clean, p. 75.
Ashenburg quotes the Ancrene Wisse, a guide for anchoresses: circa 1225-1240 (see http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/teams/awintro.htm )
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 Dirt on Clean by Katherine Ashenburg (North Point Press, 2007), p. 119.

Quick-acting Spa Water
"After drinking, you go for a walk in the countryside. Ladies of elegance walk leaning on the arms of their servants, or of their gallants; and as the water acts promptly, and causes abundant stools, it is a curious spectacle to see everyone firing off in full view, and even vying with each other; for there is no bush or tree to give cover." -- Thomas Platter, Balaruc, near Montpellier, 1595.
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 http://cleanpure.info/


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