Buboes, Gleets, and Chordee: New Selections from Early American Imprints, Supplements from the American Antiquarian Society, 1652-1819

Highlighted below are a few of the items added in May to the major new enrichment to the Evans and Shaw-Shoemaker collections of early American printed materials. These rare works, now available for the first time in Readex digital editions of Early American Imprints, are from the holdings of the American Antiquarian Society.


The porcupine, alias the hedge-hog: or, The fox turned preacher: Written after the manner of Ignatius Irony, Bartholomew Burlesque, and Samuel Satire (1795)

By L.S. living in Fox Island

Indeed, this imprint employs irony, burlesque, and satire:

“A Certain Fox (not the cunningest of his species) having frequent occasion to pass by a country church, and contrasting his own leanness with the Parson’s fatness, he concluded it more safe, as well as more honorable, to preach than to kill poultry…”

Hence, the fox attends evening lectures at the church, observing that the preacher…

…would repeatedly inform his audience, that such and such passages were wrongly translated, he determined to avail himself of this, and take the same liberty, by which means [the fox] might be enabled to construe every text to his own liking, and impose upon his hearers at pleasure.

Stealing a Bible from the church, the fox is particularly taken by a passage from Acts: “Rise Peter, kill and eat.” He determines that he shall call himself Peter and issue an address:

…to all the poultry in the country, setting forth his reformation, and conversion to the christian [sic] religion, signifying his intention to live upon roots and herbs; at the same time offering himself to them as their teacher and father confessor, by which means he might be enabled to destroy them without suspicion.

The author sustains his satirical fable throughout, and he does not restrict his barbs to the clergy. When the fox is preparing to meet a delegation of fowl, he first eats an onion, the better to summon up a few tears. In a footnote, the author explains:

These onions are in great demand at some funerals viz. aged, sickly and rich parents, drunken husbands, scolding wives, elder brothers, who otherwise would take the whole estate, rivals both in interest, honor, or love.


Medicine chests, carefully prepared (1818)

By John Barstow, Druggist, Hallowell, Maine

This work, which describes the various curatives that Mr. Barstow included in his medicine chests, also explains what they are used for and how to administer them. The chests contained many potions and powders identified only by number, for example:

“In fluxes, one of the powders taken as directed, and after the operation, forty drops from phial No. 4, and No. 7, taken in wine every four hours.”

It appears that the need for emetics and purgatives was substantial as a considerable number of the medicines are recommended for multiple conditions. The emetics were prescribed…

when sickness at stomach, pain in the head, loss of appetite, shiverings and great weakness indicate the beginning fever. After the operation of the puke the patient had better turn in, giving him one teaspoonful of the medicine marked No. 10, in a little warm tea, let him keep warm and endeavor to sweat.

Purging powders are “proper to be taken in costiveness.” There is bark “for the cure of fever and ague,” laudanum for “violent cholics and cramp in the stomach,” castor oil, peppermint for “windy pains of the stomach and bowels,” opodeldocs for “contusions and accidents of any kind upon the body,” and others for a variety of complaints.

Since this chest was specifically for sailors, Barstow includes several treatments for venereal diseases about which he is straightforward. This section provides the reader with vocabulary that may be unfamiliar. There are treatments for “Buboes in the Groin arising from a Pox,” for “Gleets from a long standing clap,” and Chordee. Finally, for simple claps the druggist suggests using a syringe of No. 21 powder four times a day “thrown gently up the Uretha.”


The introduction to the Orthographer; or The first book for children (1814)

By Arthur Donaldson, author of the Orthographer

Printed to introduce young children to spelling and grammar, this work begins with a list of two-letter words, followed by a definition of articles, which precedes this definition of nouns: “the name[s] of any thing that we can see, hear, taste, smell, feel, or discourse of.”  

There ensues a list of three-letter nouns, including fop, gun, urn, yew, and wig, followed by lists of increasingly longer nouns that reflect the social and economic conditions of the early 19th century. Words are categorized variously, including Eatables (ale, beer, curds, and whey), The World (sun, moon, light, dark), and Birds, Beasts, &c. (bug, crane, rook, and kite). It is diverting to consider the authors choices of categories and the entries within them. A list of Monosyllables yields among others blast, blaze, black, bloom, keel, knob, knell, and knot. There are lists of Dissyllables: ab sence, jar gon, gam mon, and glut ton; while the list of Trisyllables includes: ab duct ion, de pres sion, and hap haz ard. The choices for entries under Polysyllables include ca lum ni a tor and de fal ca tion, both of which seem rather advanced concepts for a child’s first book of orthography.

Interspersed throughout are simple reading lessons made up of unrelated sentences, some of which are surprising: “I told him not to burn his shoes.” The lessons conclude with a poem entitled “The Field Daisy,” the second verse of which is here quoted.

Little lady, when you pass
Lightly o’er the tender grass,
Skip about, but do not tread
On my meek and healthy head;
For I always seem to say.
“Surely winter’s gone away.”


Also included in the May release are a number of almanacs specifically cited by latitude, an elegiac poem written by a grieving husband whose young wife died leaving an 11-day-old infant, a eulogy on George Washington delivered on February 22, 1800, which was set by Congress as a day “for the national lamentation of his death,” several disquisitions on church customs and rituals, and more.


For more information about Early American Imprints, Series I and II: Supplements from the American Antiquarian Society, 1652-1819, including pricing, or to request a trial for your institution, please contact readexmarketing[at]readex[dot]com.

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