A 17th Century Renaissance
Dr William Salmon:
Copyright © 2004 Bruce Tober All Rights
A Mrs Beeton for the 17th Century
Always game to write something different, in 1696, he published one
of England's first cookery books.
Between a third and a half of the book is devoted to cookery while the
remainder deals with such other matters as medical prescriptions, making perfumes, preserving clothes from moths,
carving techniques, and "Bills of Fare in all Seasons of the Year". For example, he included a cure for
melancholy; discussed the medicinal benefits of melons, the herb melilot and metheglin. There was also a recipe
for a potage, which resembles nothing so much as the stock making of today.
"Except," says Dick Pidgeon, in an article in the Los
Altos Town Crier "that in its herbs it includes pennyroyal,
a herb little used these days, marigold petals (still used in Jersey), violets, currants, harts horn shavings,
as well as the more usual herbs and spices of today. This particular potage, declared Salmon, is very good against
consumption or any defect in the lungs or stomach."
And like Mrs Beeton's famed volume, it provides keen insights into gender
relations and attitudes toward household work.
The book's chapters include: I. Cookery in Dressing, Flesh, Fowl, Fish,
Herbs, Roots, making Sawces, &c. II. PASTRY, making Pyes, Pasties, Puddings, Pancakes, Cheesecakes, Custards,
Tansies, &c. III. CONFECTS, Candies, Conserves, Preserves, Creams, Gellies, Pickles, &c. IV. POTABLE Liquors,
as Ale, Beer, Mum, Mead, Cider, Perry, Rape, English Wines, Chocolet, Coffee, Tea, &c. V. PERFUMING Sweet Balls,
Pouders, Pomanders, Essences, Sweer Waters, Beautifying Washes, &c. VI. HUSBANDRY, as it relates to the Improvement
of Our Barren and Waste lands,
Manufactures &c. VII. PREPARATIONS Galenick and Chymick, relating to Physick and Chirurgery, as Cordial Waters,
Spirits, Tinctures, Elixirs, Syrups, Pouders, Electuaries, Pills, Oils, Balsams, Cerecloths, and Emplasters, fitted
for Curing most Diseases Incident to Men, Women, and Children.
Richard Hunter and Ida Macalpine, authors of many books on things psychological and medical, have described Salmon
as "a busy practitioner with a ready pen who left extensive accounts of his patients and how he treated them".
For example in his 1681 A Compendium of Physick, Chirurgery,
and Anatomy, Chapter 29 "Diseases of the Upper Ventricle".
According to the "Document of the Month" for April 2004 from
the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh the
chapter "deals mostly with neurological and psychiatric disorders (epilepsy, vertigo, apoplexy, convulsion,
palsy, incubus, melancholy, distemper of the brain, delirium), though it also deals with disorders of the eyes,
ears, and teeth.
"His recorded cases," the article continues, "though they seem original, may often be traced to
other sources, a fact that the Dictionary of National Biography believes point to him merely being an amanuensis of another person.
Did someone mention the S word?
The late 17th Century wasn't all that different to now in the publishing
world when it came to things sexual either. There were apparently many books on sexuality, one of the best known,
according to Angus McLaren in The Pleasures of Procreation:
Traditional and Biomedical Theories of Conception and the
"best example" of such works was Salmon's Aristotle's
Master-Piece: The Works of Aristotle the famous philosopher, in four parts: his Complete Masterpiece...; his Experienced
Midwife...; his Book of Problems...; his Last Legacy (they
liked long titles back then). First published in 1684, the book was the most widely used text of its kind, McLaren
says, and went through more editions than any other sex manual from its first printing in 1684 until the end of
the eighteenth century.
In her PhD dissertation, Subversive Bodies: Embodiment as Discursive Strategy in Women's Popular
Literature of the Long Eighteenth Century, (apparently
they still like long titles) Phyllis Ann Thompson says, "twenty-nine editions had been printed by the end
of the century, specifically 1791, with other editions appearing in English (from Scotland, England, and America),
German, and French from the date of the first edition through 1920. Anonymously authored, Aristotle's Master-Piece drew on the
work of Nicholas Culpeper, Albertus Magnus, and common folklore and was attributed to William Salmon.
"McLaren argues," Thompson continues, "that Aristotle's Master-Piece
is valuable, in part, because its reception reflects the changing attitudes about, and perceptions of, sexuality
from the seventeenth through the eighteenth centuries."
Salmon's "mermaid-pye" (courtesy
King's College London)
And then there's Salmon's "Mermaid-Pye", which sounds as much an aphrodisiac as any other. But... He
included this recipe in The family-dictionary, or, Houshold
companion. It's made with pork and tongue.
When it came to foods, Salmon was a wealth of knowledge, for his time at any rate.
For example, he said in Pharmacopoeia Londinensis. Or, the
New London Dispensatory, (1696) coriander seed "comforts
a cold and moist Stomach, helps Digestion, stops Vomiting, kills Worms, and stops all fluxes: after Meat it closes
the Mouth of the Stomach, and suppresses Vapours that would hurt the head."
In the same book, he went on to discuss the Lapis Vegetabilis (The Vegetable Stone). "Rx. Take a dry plant,
digest it with its own distilled water: draw from it the flegm, spirit, and oil; from the feces extract a salt
(by calcination) with the flegm: then draw a tincture from the same kind of herb with the spirit; impregnate the
salt with the tincture, and add as much of the oil as the salt so impregnated can swallow up, then coagulate like
a stone.... It has all the virtues of the herbs exalted from whence it is extracted."
You say Tomato, or Potato, he said both
The first mention of tomatoes in the USA was made in 1710 in Salmon's
Botanologia; or the English Herbal. The next surviving printed reference was by Thomas Jefferson, who in 1782 wrote of tomato
plantings in Virginia.
And then there's the lowly potato. Try as he might to extol their virtues, people were caught up in the negative
mythology surrounding it. Salmon praised them highly claiming they stopped "fluxes of the bowel and could
cure tuberculosis and rabies." He even went so far as to promote their aphrodisiacal qualities, asserting
that eating potatoes would "increase seed and provoke lust, causing fruitfulness in both sexes."
But it wasn't only potatoes that Salmon saw as an aphrodisiac.
Since the late 1400s, when they were introduced into England, distilled cordial waters had been prescribed in small
doses as alcoholic medicines. These were the forerunners of modern liqueurs and were thought to invigorate the
heart and revitalise the spirits. But by 1700, they were being imbibed as much for their intoxicating effects as
their medicinal values, according to the Historic Foods website.
These alchemists, magicians, physicians or whatever they were (and Salmon was all of those and more) even developed
cordials containing ingredients such as gold and pearls. These were thought "to renew the natural heat, recreate
and revive the Spirits, and free the whole Body from the malignity of diseases". Moreover, the Historic Foods
site, says, "Many cordials were also considered to act as aphrodisiacs, a view which encouraged their consumption
in a social rather than medical context.
"Most important of these was Rosa Solis or Rosolio, a drink that probably originated in Renaissance Turin.
Distilled over large quantities of the insectivorous bog plant sundew, it included hot provocative spices like
cubebs, grains of paradise and galingale. According to the seventeenth century medical writer William Salmon, sundew
'stirs up lust'. He goes on to say that the distilled water 'is of a glittering yellow, like Gold, and colours
Silver of a Golden Colour if put therein'. In Salmon's time, rosa solis was used in England at the banquet course
to wash down other venerous food items such as kissing comfits and candied eryngo roots."
Salmon could also be a trend follower, rather than a trend setter. The late 16th and early 17th Centuries saw a
multitude of books about herbal medicine published, reflecting growing interest in the use of plants in the treatment
of diseases. The most respected of the English herbals among physicians what that written by John Gerard (1597),
revised in 1620 by Thomas Johnson.
Herbals were highly profitable to the printer. Without international copyright laws, it was not unusual for a book,
published in Holland to appear in England, the profit going to the printer rather than the author of the work.
Salmon, in 1710 and 1711 published two folio volumes, Botanologia, which was dedicated to Queen Anne. The book is an example of the trend in herbals
in the mid 1600s information about plant distribution, times of flowering, and even their cultivation was included
along with the medical information.
And let us not forget dental medicine. Salmon certainly didn't.
Salmon gave this advice to prevent toothache: "Wash your Mouth every Morning with Juice of Limons, mix'd with
a little Brandy; and afterwards rub your Teeth with a Sage-Leaf, and wash your Teeth after Meat with Rosemary Water
mix'd with Brandy."
And speaking of herbals, in common with many herbalists today, Salmon found hemp (Marijuana) to have a number of
uses. Some uses he cites are in in the treatment of "gout, worms, tumours and inflammation," says The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Substances by Richard Rudgley. "Nor were its psychoactive properties forgotten. Bulleyn warns that
it can bring madness and it was a seventeenth-century belief that apothecaries and others that traded in cannabis
often became epileptics, an effect attributed to the seeds....
"Salmon, writing in 1693, says that cannabis seeds, leaves, juice, essence and decoctions were readily available
in druggists' shops at the time, thus showing that cannabis was a widely used medicine."
Likewise, in her article "The `homelie herbe'" in History
Today magazine, Vivienne Crawford, examining the medicinal
history of cannabis in Britain says, "Thus well-rooted in the English Materia medica, cannabis continued to
be used throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. ... Salmon... described its use in regulating haemorrhage."