rare book post

by colombia96 on October 26, 2016 - 5:34pm

The book we worked with was called “the way to Health” by Tryon. It was a very small book, about pocket size. Its rough dimensions were roughly 20 x 12 x 4 cm and weighted about 3.5 lbs. The library guy said it was an octavo, a total of 520 pages so that should mean 65 leaves folded 8 times. The book was most probably in its original leather binding along with the reconstruction of the backbone of the book. It had that undistinguishable old book smell. It was written in English with no illustrations and with a very simple font, most probably Times new Roman and had no sign of hand written notes in the margins.  The book had been used a lot in its time as indication by the water marks and visible wear of the pages and binding. The book seems to be about preventative medicine. Its small size and written langue probably meant it was a house hold book for the everyday person. As the library guy explained, the way books are written and bind can tell a lot about who owned it. The book was the second edition and was already outdated by the time of the reprint in 1691.
New knowledge in the time took drastically longer to get around than it does now. The new paradigm of medicine was already in progress during this time but since it was a house hold preventive medicine book, its content was still based on the old paradigm revolving around the 4 humors. As explained by the library guy, it was common for house hold books to be outdated since the average person was not expected to understand this new paradigm of medicine that closer resembles our modern medicine. Thanks to the change of paradigm new knowledge was being created at the hands of the most educated people in society, these were often very select few who had the means to be schooled. General education was not as common place as it is today and people most often pursued to educate themselves in applicable trades, often follow their parents’ line of work. This meant most people weren’t as educate. Scholar books were more commonly written in Latin, making them useless for an average person who could only read vernacular if literate at all. This greatly impaired the distribution of knowledge since it limited who had access to books and who could actually read them. Distribution of knowledge has greatly changed since this time. The only way to obtain it was through literature or apprenticing someone in a career. This greatly limited the population’s access to this knowledge and allowed others to have a better access to it through their social statues. The higher in the social structure the better access you had to new and old knowledge and subsequently left those lower in the social structure with barely any access to new knowledge and limited access to old knowledge. Today, almost the entire collection of modern knowledge is within our grasp thanks to the internet, and it’s practically available in every spoken language. This is greatly different as to who can access it yet we still follow a similar structure when it comes to the production of new knowledge, at least in reliable sources. Since literally anyone can post anything on the internet it’s important to screen for unreliable sources so that we can assure that what we are reading is not junk. Like this blog is my personal understanding of the production of knowledge from the time, it’s possible I am not a very reliable source. 


I find it very interesting that household books were a thing back then! I believe you've done a great job at showcasing and contrasting the social difference between the higher educated elites and the lower educated general population, which can be found even within their collection of books: the use of Latin or vernacular, for example. Furthermore, the fact that you mentioned it to be a preventive book says a lot about the period at the time. In fact, if i recall correctly, preventive methods were preferred over curative methods, especially for the local peasant. I find it interesting that you've decided to point this out!