By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian
It’s Brain Awareness Week, a week-long effort to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. Which got us thinking: What kind of advice did people get about taking care of their brains hundreds of years before the advent of brain imaging?
A home remedy guide from our collection provides one answer. Like many tomes of its day, the book has a long and descriptive title: A Rich Store-House or Treasury for the Diseased: Wherein, are Many Approued Medicines for Diuers and Sundry Diseases, Which Haue Been Long Hidden, and not Come to Light Before This Time; Now Set Foorth for the Great Benefit and Comfort of the Poorer Sort of People That are not of Abillitie to Go to the Physitions.
How-to guides were very common and often reprinted during the Renaissance.1 A Rich Store-House is no exception; our library houses the first edition from 1596 (shown here), the fifth edition from 1612, and the eighth and final edition from 1650. A Rich Store-House is likely modeled after the work recognized as the first home remedy guide, Thesaurus Pauperum, a guide to medical treatments published in the 13th century written by Petrus Hispanus, or Peter of Spain, who went on to become Pope John XXI.2
So what does A Rich Store-House have to say about the brain? It offers two lists, “A Rule to knowe what things are good and holesome for the Braine” and “These Thinges are ill for the Braine.” Some of the items, like washing hands often, walking, sleeping, and eating and drinking in moderation, are still considered wise advice today. Others, like not listening to much music or singing or not eating onions and garlic, have not aged quite as well.
1. Katz, W. A., & Katz, B. (1998). Cuneiform to Computer: A History of Reference Sources (Google eBook) (p. 415). Scarecrow Press. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=Q0e58w8n88MC&pgis=1
2. Geshwind, M. (1997). A rich storehouse of medicines for diverse and sundry diseases, an Elizabethan “Treasurie for the poorer sort of people”. Journal of the History of Dentistry, 45(1), 17–22.