10 Gifts for the [Anyone] in Your Life

By Emily Miranker, Project Manager

How do you choose the perfect gift to symbolize the relationship you have with another person? Daunting task; no wonder the holidays get stressful!

Never fear, the images from our library’s collections offers up scores of ways to express any sentiment. Find some new products and old favorites below. As our gift to you, use code ZTHANKS15OFF for 15% off at check out.

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  1. We’re a Library, so we have to encourage getting wrapped up in a good book. In this case, a cozy blanket showing a beautiful illuminated manuscript from the sixteenth-century.

Book Blanket

  1. Warm people from the inside too with coffee or tea in this china mug with a caduceus. In the late 19th century the caduceus began to be widely accepted as a symbol of medicine. Perfect for the surgeons, nurses, doctors, and all the healers in your life.

Caduceus mug

  1. A thing of beauty, a tool of healing, a feat of design: the stethoscope –stocking stuffer sized!

Stethoscope bookmark

    1. Brilliant thoughts deserve an extraordinary notebook. The thinking skeleton on this journal has been brainstorming since he was first printed by woodcut in the 16th century.

Thinking skeleton notebook

  1. Our botanical images adorn items from stationery to home goods. These engravings, illuminations, and woodcuts from our herbals, encyclopedias and recipe books reveal the age-old human fascination and affection for plants as things of beauty, medicine and meaning.

Clove pillow

  1. Librarians never judge a book by their cover; but we definitely judge a present by its packaging.

Amarylis gift tag

  1. Send warm wishes to loved ones on chilly winter days. This stunning card of plants from 17th-century botanist, astrologer and physician Nicholas Culpeper is just one of hundreds of cards and stamps in our stationery collection.

Culpeper card

  1. Only prize winning cats are fit to tote your belongings around! These feline beauties come from a pet project of British Naval doctor, W. Gordon Stables, a guide to keeping cats.

Longhaired black cat tote

  1. Our sunflower earrings from the longest running botanical magazine – Curtis’ Botanical Magazine, in publication since 1787- brighten the dreariest day.

sunflower earrings

  1. The iconic Brooklyn Bridge is always a stylish choice.

Brooklyn bridge pencil case

Grand finale: for that impossible-to-shop-for-person adopt a book from our collections in their honor. With your donation, you or an honoree of your choice become a permanent part of a book’s story through a beautiful bookplate inserted into the book. Alternately, adopt a card catalog drawer, that iconic symbol of libraries, learning and love of reading.

Bookplate -YourName

All adoptions are fully tax deductible and all Library Shop sale proceeds support the growth and care of the collection; for which we are very grateful to you and all our supporters.

Happy Holidays!

Historical “Cures” Uncovered During Cataloging of Rare Pamphlets

By Becky Filner, Head of Cataloging

The New York Academy of Medicine Library is currently undertaking the cataloging of a collection of rare pamphlets from the 17th century through the early 20th century. Through this process, we’ve come across many fascinating (and sometimes perplexing) items. Here I will highlight four pamphlets from the 18th and 19th centuries that prescribe surprising cures for ailments.

In 1704, Nicolas Andry de Bois-Regard (1658-1742)[1], a French physician and writer, published a pamphlet in Paris, Le thé de l’Europe, in which he enumerates the health benefits of “Europe tea,” or Veronica officinalis (also known as speedwell or gypsyweed.) Our pamphlet, titled Preservatif contre les Fièvres Malignes, ou Le Thé de l’Europe et les Proprietez de la Veronique, is a 1710 edition of this work printed in Lyon. Andry recommends Veronica officinalis for treating headaches, sore throats, dry coughs, fevers, asthma, dysentery, and many other ailments. Speedwell is still used as a dietary supplement today, however its efficacy in treating any of these conditions is inconclusive.


The title page to Andry’s 1710 Lyon edition of Le Thé de l’Europe.


Engraving of Veronica officinalis from Andry’s Le Thé de l’Europe.

The second pamphlet, by John Andree (1697/8-1785)[2], a physician and co-founder of the London Hospital, recommends against using hemlock to treat cancer. Andree is responding to the Viennese physician Anton von Störck’s 1760 publication on hemlock, An Essay on the Medicinal Nature of Hemlock. In his Observations upon a Treatise on the Virtues of Hemlock, in the Cure of Cancers, Andree warns that when he tried to replicate Störck’s claims about hemlock, he found that “some curable Scirrhuses [tumors] were, during the Use of the Extract of Hemlock, instead of mending, brought to the State of deplorable Cancers.”[3] Not only is hemlock not a cure for cancer, it is “detrimental.”[4] Throughout the pamphlet, Andree provides specific details of the negative side effects his patients encountered while trying hemlock as a treatment. Andree is hopeful that new cures will be found for cancer, but he warns that “we should be cautious not to recommend any Thing before we are well assured of the Certainty of its Effects; nor publish Cases glossed over with a Design, perhaps, to raise our Reputation.”[5]


Title page from John Andree’s 1761 work, Observations upon a Treatise on the Virtues of Hemlock, in the Cure of Cancers.

The third pamphlet, Paul Bolmer’s New Receipts and Cures for Man & Beast (1831), is by far the strangest of the four pamphlets. Printed on cheap paper and apparently self-published (the cover reads, “Published by Paul Bolmer,” and the title page reads, “Printed for the Purchaser” where we would expect to see a printer or publisher’s name), this compilation of folk remedies is strikingly odd.[6] Bolmer’s cures include tea made of catnip for treating morning sickness, pills made of brown sugar and pepper for treating toothache, garlic juice mixed with whiskey and breast milk for treating colic in children, and a concoction of white oak bark, pennyroyal, knotgrass, whortleberries, and French brandy for curing dysentery. Many of the recipes have specific directions involving times of day or phases of the moon: a “certain cure for the tooth-ache” is to:

take a goose quill and cut it off where it begins to be hollow, then scrape off a little from each nail of the hands and feet, put it into the quill & stop it up, after which bore a hole towards the rise of the sun, into a tree that bears no fruit, put the quill with the scrapings of the nails into the hole and with three strokes close up the hole with a bung made of pine wood. It must be done on the first Friday in New moon in the morning.[7]


Paul Bolmer, in his New Receipts and Cures for Man & Beast (1831), compiles folk remedies that seem outlandish today.


Bolmer’s “A cure for the felon” is perhaps the strangest moment in this weird pamphlet.

The most bizarre cure in this pamphlet is Bolmer’s “A cure for the felon, if used directly in the beginning” (see image of the page above.)[8] After writing the word “Javsvsra” (with the J backwards and dots specifically placed between and under the letters) and the phrase, “Now I rely on the name of God, that this word will destroy the seed of the Felon,” Bolmer promises that by “tie[ing] the side of the paper with the writing over the felon and leav[ing] it on for 24 hours . . . the felon will be killed.” It is hard to imagine that anyone ever believed this would work. Someone must have been buying what Bolmer was selling, however, because this book went through three German editions (1831, Philadelphia 1838, and Harrisburg, PA 1842), the 1831 English translation discussed here, and an English reprinting in 1853 in Greencastle, PA.[9]

The fourth pamphlet, The Boston Cooking School, 372 Boylston Street: Invalid Cookery: Nurses’ Course, was published in 1898 to accompany a Boston Cooking School class for nurses.  Divided into six lessons, it covers beverages; beef tea, gruels, and mushes; eggs, toast, sandwiches, etc.; fish, jellies, etc.; soups; and desserts. Many of the recipes are familiar (oatmeal, omelets, toast), but others (Irish moss blanc mange, Junket custard, ivory jelly) use unfamiliar ingredients or simply do not suit our taste. The Library holds many related pamphlets and cookbooks about invalid cookery, a popular topic in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The front cover and the first page of The Boston Cooking School’s Nurses’ Course in Invalid Cookery.


As we continue to catalog our extensive rare pamphlet collection, we expect to uncover many more fascinating, illuminating, and downright weird pamphlets. Stay tuned!

[1] For more information about Andry, see Remi Kohler. “Nicolas Andry de Bois-Regard (Lyon 1658-Paris 1742): the inventor of the word “orthopaedics” and the father of parasitology.” Journal of Children’s Orthopaedics. 2010 Aug.; 4(4): 349-355. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908340/
[2] For more information about Andree, see D.D. Gibbs. “Andree, John (1697/8-1785).“ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press; 2004. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/514, accessed 2 Nov 2017.
[3] John Andree. Observations upon a Treatise on the Virtues of Hemlock, in the Cure of Cancers. London: J. Meres; 1761, p. iv.
[4] Ibid., p. vii.
[5] Ibid., p. vii.
[6] This pamphlet was apparently published in southern Pennsylvania, not Germany (as the title page notes.) This is an English translation of a pamphlet originally printed in German as Eine Sammlung von neuen Rezepten und erprobten Kuren fur Menschen und Thiere (Deustchland [i.e. Pennsylvania]: Gedruct fur den Kaufer, 1831.) Bolmer’s work may be plagiarized from Daniel Ballmer’s Eine Sammlung von neuen Recepten und bewahrten Curen fur Menschen und Vieh (Schellsburg, PA: Friedrich Goeb; 1827.)  For further discussion of these pamphlets, see Christopher Hoolihan. An Annotated Catalogue of the Edward C. Atwater Collection of American Popular Medicine and Health Reform. Volume III. Rochester: University of Rochester Press; 2008, p. 79-80. Available through Google Books.
[7] Paul Bolmer. New Receipts and Cures for Man & Beast. Germany: Paul Bolmer; 1831, p. 12.
[8] Ibid., p. 27.
[9] This information about the various editions of this work is taken from Christopher Hoolihan’s An Annotated Catalogue of the Edward C. Atwater Collection of American Popular Medicine and Health Reform. Volume III. Rochester: University of Rochester Press; 2008, p. 80.

Asthma and the Civil Rights Movement

Today’s guest post is written by Ijeoma Kola, a PhD candidate in Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and a former National Science Foundation graduate fellow. Her dissertation examines the history of asthma in urban African Americans in the 20th century, with special attention to medical history, environmental racism, and community activism. On Tuesday, November 14 at 6pm, Ijeoma will give the talk “Unable to Breathe: Race, Asthma, and the Environment in Civil Rights Era New Orleans and New York.” Click HERE to register for this event.

In July 1965, several months after the assassination of Malcolm X and the freedom marches from Selma to Montgomery, the New York Times ran a story about “an emotional epidemic” of asthma sweeping across New York City.[1] Although the writer focused on psychosomatic explanations to link asthma symptoms to the hostility of the Civil Rights Movement, it prompted me to explore the significance of asthma’s emergence as a racial problem during the 1960s.

Asthma Linked to Rights Drive

Osmundsen, John A. “Asthma Linked to Rights Drive.” New York Times. 1965.

Before the 1960s, little was written about asthma in African Americans. For much of the early twentieth century, doctors debated whether black people could have asthma, as they understood the disease to afflict middle and upper-class whites, who were believed to have more civilized lifestyles and delicate constitutions than poor blacks.[2]

However, in the 1960s, several “outbreaks” of asthma made national news headlines. In the fall of 1960, nearly 150 patients from adjoining neighborhoods were treated for asthma at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. One patient, a 73-year-old man, died.[3] After several years of seasonal asthma admission spikes in the same hospital, researchers at Tulane University found that asthma related visits to the emergency room correlated with fire department calls from spontaneous fires at the base of garbage heaps, some five to twenty years old, around the city. Smoke containing silica particles would drift downwind to where the majority of people who visited Charity Hospital, triggering asthma attacks.[4]

Air Pollution and NO Asthma

Lewis, Robert, Murray M. Gilkeson, and Roy O. McCaldin. “Air Pollution and New Orleans Asthma.” Public Health Reports 77, no. 11 (November 1962): 953.

Air Pollution and NO Asthma 2

Lewis, Robert, Murray M. Gilkeson, and Roy O. McCaldin. “Air Pollution and New Orleans Asthma.” Public Health Reports 77, no. 11 (November 1962): 948. with modifications.

At the time, however, the New Orleans asthma epidemic of November 1960 was quickly forgotten, as events over the course of the next few days would quickly turn attention away from asthma to something more urgent. A week after Dennis Knight’s death, on November 14, 1960 – four black 6-year old girls – Leona Tate, Tessie Provost, Gaile Etienne, and Ruby Bridges – began the school integration process at two elementary schools in New Orleans. Violent protests broke out across the city, and only 13 of the usual 1,000 students at the two schools attended on integration day.[5]

In New Orleans in 1960, and in several other American cities with a large concentrated black community over the next decade, asthma appeared to present itself alongside moments of racial tension. Although the New York Times connects these two phenomena with a psychosomatic explanation of emotional distress, I view the relationship differently. Neighborhoods where African Americans lived – often restricted to due to segregation and redlining – were more exposed to both indoor and outdoor particles that triggered asthma symptoms. While struggling to breathe, black people simultaneously fought for the right to live as equals. Rather than think of Civil Rights as a cause of asthma, I see asthma outbreaks in black urban America and subsequent efforts to reduce the asthma disparity as both a symptom and a symbol of the Civil Rights movement.

[1] John A. Osmundsen, “Asthma Linked to Rights Drive: Authorities Note Sharp Rise in Ailment Among Negroes and Puerto Ricans in City CAUSE STILL UNCERTAIN Tensions of Fight for Gains Play at Least Some Role, Many Experts Contend,” New York Times, 1965.
[2] Horace F. Ivins, “Pollen Catarrh-Hay Fever,” in Proceedings of the Fourth Quinquennial Session of the International Homoeopathic Congress, Held at Atlantic City, N.J., U.S.A., June 16 to 22, 1891 (Philadelphia: Sherman & Co., 1891), 732–43.
[3] “Medics Puzzled:: Asthma Epidemic Hits New Orleans; 149 Seized, 1 Dead,” Philadelphia Tribune (1912-2001); Philadelphia, Penn., November 12, 1960, sec. 2.
[4] Robert Lewis, Murray M. Gilkeson, and Roy O. McCaldin, “Air Pollution and New Orleans Asthma,” Public Health Reports 77, no. 11 (November 1962): 947–54.
[5] John G. Warner, “Mob of 5000 Is Hosed By New Orleans Police: Police Hose New Orleans Segregation Rioters,” The Washington Post, Times Herald  (1959-1973); Washington, D.C., November 17, 1960.