Yesterday saw one of my favourite weekend adventures in the historic city of Edinburgh; a trawl through the town for vintage and antique medical texts.
One find from this yielding trip was ‘Home Doctor’ by Edinburgh physician and lecturer John D. Comrie, published by George Newnes Ltd, 1931.
Comrie held a long list of prestigious positions including Physician at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Consulting Physician at Deaconess Hospital, Edinburgh, Lecturer on Practice of Medicine at The School Of The Royal Colleges At Edinburgh and Late Consulting Physician To The Forces in North Russia.
His best known work is perhaps Black’s Medical Dictionary, for which he was editor from the 1st edition in 1906 to the 17th in 1942. Black’s is still sold today and is currently in its 42nd edition.
Comrie opens Home Doctor with the following:
This volume is designed for those who, without having any medical knowledge, desire advice of a practical character, especially in matters affecting the preservation or restoration of health. Such a book is continually needed in every household, and this book has been prepared specially for use in the home.
Edinburgh, March 1931
A large 391 yellowed and dusty pages, the book boasts ‘two full-page illustrations in colour, with key to the same’:
‘Organs of the body from before, with the soft parts removed’
‘Organs of the body from behind, with the soft parts removed’
The beauty of antique and vintage books is the insight they give you into the way the world was at the time of writing. This 1930’s household staple has some gems in the ‘S’ section alone:
Page 324, Snoring: is a form of noisy breathing due to sleeping with the mouth open. It can be checked by tying up the jaw and breathing only through the nose, or by turning on the side.
Page 324, Smallpox, Symptoms: The period of incubation is from about ten to fourteen (usually twelve) days. The invasion is sudden, with shivering, high fever, headache, and often vomiting. On the third day the characteristic eruption begins to make its appearance, and spreads all over the face, trunk, and extremities in the course of a few hours. On the second or third day after its appearance the eruption undergoes a change – the pimples becoming vesicles filled with a clear fluid. The clear content of these vesicles gradually become turbid, and by the eighth or ninth day of the disease they are changed into ‘pustules’ containing yellow matter, with an increase of the fever. The eyes may also be involved in the eruption, to the danger of permanent impairment of sight. On the eleventh or twelfth day the pustules show signs of drying up, and along with the fever abates. Great itching of the skin attends this stage. The scabs produced by the dried pustules gradually fall off and reddish brown spots remain, which according to the depth of skin involved in the disease, leave a permanent, white depressed scar – this ‘pitting’, so characteristic of smallpox, being specially marked on the face.
Page 338, Suicide: See under ‘Insanity’
Happy bedtime reading.