Jul 212020
 

Diseases in the District of Maine 1772 – 1820

The Unpublished Work of Jeremiah Barker, a Rural Physician in New England

Richard J. Kahn, Assistant Clinical Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine

Oxford University Press 9780190053253 August 2020 | $35.00 Hardback | 564 pages

Oxford University Press presents Diseases in the District of Maine 1772 – 1820.

So my dad has done a thing…over the course of a few decades, he fully annotated a previously unpublished work of a rural Maine physician. It is soon to be available from Oxford University Press. Preorder now!

Jeremiah Barker practiced medicine in rural Maine up until his retirement in 1818. Throughout his practice of fifty years, he documented his constant efforts to keep up with and contribute to the medical literature in a changing medical landscape, as practice and authority shifted from historical to scientific methods. He performed experiments and autopsies, became interested in the new chemistry of Lavoisier, risked scorn in his use of alkaline remedies, studied epidemic fever and approaches to bloodletting, and struggled to understand epidemic fever, childbed fever, cancer, public health, consumption, mental illness, and the “dangers of spirituous liquors.”

Dr. Barker intended to publish his Diseases in the District of Maine 1772-1820 by subscription – advance pledges to purchase the published volume – but for reasons that remain uncertain, that never happened. For the first time, Barker’s never before published work has been transcribed and presented in its entirety with extensive annotations, a five-chapter introduction to contextualize the work, and a glossary to make it accessible to 21st century general readers, genealogists, students, and historians.

This engaging and insightful new publication allows modern readers to reimagine medicine as practiced by a rural physician in New England. We know much about how elite physicians practiced 200 years ago, but very little about the daily practice of an ordinary rural doctor, attending the ordinary rural patient. Barker’s manuscript is written in a clear and engaging style, easily enjoyed by general readers as well as historians, with extensive footnotes and a glossary of terms. Barker himself intended his book to be “understood by those destitute of medical science.”

Advanced Praise for Diseases in the District of Maine 1772 – 1820

“A remarkable and previously unknown source of diseases and medicine in early America. With meticulous research and sensitive prose, Dr. Kahn has set this treasure in its social, cultural, and scientific context, making it accessible, informative, and engaging for everyone.”

– Jacalyn Duffin, MD, PhD, Professor Emerita Queen’s University, Kingston Canada

“After a publication delay of over 200 years, Diseases in the District of Maine is fully worth the wait. It offers a fascinating and at times dramatic immersion into medical practice in one part of the early American nation. Dr. Barker proves to be an earnest physician and amiable reporter; while Dr. Kahn ably helps out as a meticulous scholar and annotator.”

-Steven J. Peitzman, MD, FACP, Office of Educational Affairs, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA

“This immensely readable book is the result of Richard Kahn’s determination to see Jeremiah Barker’s notes and views on the practice of medicine in rural Maine 200 years ago recognised today. Barker’s fifty years’ journey shows his progression from apprentice to a master of his craft. Throughout, his case notes, with description of the patients and justification for his diagnoses and treatment, reveal an enlightened approach. He noted the characteristics of his patients and their habits along with detailing the local climate and geography to inform his thoughts, particularly with regard to consumption. He believed himself to be a scientific physician and his epidemiological observations led to him addressing life-style changes. This methodology was not that far from that of today and he can be considered a pioneer.”

–Dr John W. K. Ward, FRCPEdin, FRCGP, Past-president of both the Osler Club of London and the British Society for the History of Medicine

“This is an extraordinary look at “ordinary” Maine physician Jeremiah Barker and his attempt to practice medicine at the turn of the 19th century. We see Barker practicing and writing his ultimately unpublished History of Diseases in the District of Maine amidst the rise and fall of medical theories and practices, the birth of medical journals in this country, and the attempt by orthodox medical practitioners to establish a seemingly rational therapeutics. Complementing Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s contextualization of Maine midwife Martha Ballard in A Midwife’s Tale, Kahn places Barker’s own evolving theories, practices, and identity, along with the full and annotated transcript of Barker’s History of Diseases of the District of Maine itself, into historical context.”

– Scott Podolsky, MD, Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Director, Center for the History of Medicine, Countway Medical Library, Boston, MA

Jun 262020
 

About 30 years ago my father discovered an unpublished manuscript of a rural physician in what was then the District of Maine. In the years that followed, he meticulously (with my mother’s constant assistance) researched and annotated the manuscript. When he retired a few years ago, he turned all his attention to finishing the project and submitted the manuscript…aspirationally, he thought, to the Oxford University Press. To his unending surprise and pleasure, they were extremely supportive and agreed to publish. As a result, I’m pleased to announce the release of History of Diseases in the District of Maine 1772-1820: The Unpublished Works ofJeremiah Baker, a Rural Physician in New England. If you are interested and order now, use the code “AMPROMD9” and receive a 30% discount off the list price. [N.B. All author proceeds will be donated to the Maine Historial Society, where the original manuscript resides.]

Apr 172018
 

Here at Lux Mentis we like etymology. So here’s a quick lesson from Word School. The first definition Merriam-Webster lists for the word “occult” is: to shut off from view or exposurecovereclipse

  • the light of a star that was about to be occulted … by Uranus itself —Jonathan Eberhart

The list goes on to describe this notion of concealing, secretive, non-manifesting things, in terms of medical conditions. The word is Latin based and very much attached to esoteric modes of practices.

Currently, it seems the Western world seems to buzz with the occult, and historically it goes in waves of popularity with greater masses, as it did in the 1970s and 1980s, the rise of occult interests seems to follow a wave of conservative politics. Essential, people react when there’s a threat on many levels. The reality is that occult interest and everything that falls under its wings have always had a devout and steady scholarship and curiosities that extends to everything classified as “things that go bump in the night” to “Aeonic Transcendential Chaos Magick.” We like it all and like to find things that fit all shelves of the brain.

We’ve compiled a new list that reflects the nature of the occult and our continuing interest in supporting the proliferation of the esoterica.  Please visit our catalogs tab here for all our lists or you can just download Occult/Esoteric Miscellany.

 

Uwe Bremer etching

Sep 302017
 

We have a had a run of interesting, unusual fine press and/or artists books land recently, but this stood out and I thought I’d throw up a quick overview:

Julie Rafalski, Tahu Deans and David Henningham re-enacted Cold War psychic drawing experiments in a Leipzig building that had formerly housed an East German supercomputer. They also reconstructed the computer as a set to be reconfigured and photographed.

These pictures, films, drawings and transcripts make up the content of this book. Operating like the distinct CMYK dots that merge optically to form a full-colour picture, the artists have worked together to take the viewer through corridor spaces, doctored photographs, and a psychic spying apparatus redolent of the building itself. Not every page is accessible without the use of a knife.

And because gilding the lily is always a good thing…

The books are editioned using a vector-based system so that each book is assigned a non-hierarchical relationship to the others.

Sep 252017
 

We have just received three copies(!) of Jamie Murphy’s simply brilliant edition of J. Swift’s Modest Proposal. We will soon(ish) have three(!!!) copies of the deluxe edition, too. I have trouble reducing to words just how much I adore this work, but if you will bear with the simulacra of various images, I will try to convey the exquisite power and delicacy in execution embodied in this work. As you likely know,  A Modest Proposal For preventing the Children of Poor People From being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and For making them Beneficial to the Publick, more commonly known by its short-title, is Swift’s 1729 satirical pamphlet suggesting the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies. It was a hastily printed pamphlet, modest in execution. The Salvage Press’ edition is not…it is rich in dark leather and marbled paper and monumental in size: imperial folio.

Jamie approaches the work from both a modern-situational aspect, but also from a profoundly personal one, with not one but two children with a rare genetic condition. “I had heard of A Modest Proposal years before but hadn’t read it until this period. The text seemed relevant and current – are the Irish not still in a shocking financial condition? Are we not still being plundered by absentee landlords? Are our children not about to incur the fallout from a previous generation’s mistakes? I started to think about reprinting the text. My daughter Olivia was born in 2016, presenting signs of the same genetic condition as my son. I knew they would have to be involved, and in one way this project was designed to mark their births.”

Jamie approached David O’Kane to illustrate the work, as he felt David’s preferred technique, scratching an image directly onto lithography stones, would create a rather haunting effect. Jamie’s suggesting that David use images of his children for inspiration, while challenging, nevertheless helped shape and shadow the remarkable power of the images.

David notes, “Swift’s voice was critical of those in power but also of the exploited masses and their deference to that power. In this sense it is still critically relevant today. The baby in the deanery dining table image appears to be eating her own hand, while simultaneously pointing an accusatory hand toward the viewer. The empty chairs await the hungry landlords. The question raised by the image is whether we want to pull up a seat at this horrific meal or find another way of setting out the table?”

Jamie asked Jessica Traynor to write nine new poems, each responding to the original text. Like the others, her contribution also integrated current events. As Jessica recalls, “So much history unfolded around me as I worked on the poems – the migrant crisis bled into Brexit, bled into the Citizens’ Assembly, bled into the Trump presidency, and I wrote poems in response to all of these events. But it would be impossible to write about the Ireland of the 21st century without writing about direct provision [the system of dealing with asylum seekers].”

The result is that rare Aristotelian work, with the whole being so much more than the sum of its parts. It is wry, and soul-draining, and funny, and touching, and brilliant, and challenging, and so much more…all once. You can return to it over and over and find something new in the image, prose, poetry, and/or design that you missed before. It is, simply, brilliant.

Jamie commissioned a wonderful video that explores the creation of the work and The Irish Times wrote this wonderful article on the work, rich with additional information and well worth a read. Enjoy both. We hope to have a standard at the Boston ABAA book fair, though there are fewer than 10 copies remaining. A complete description can be found here. I will almost certainly have one of the Deluxe editions, however, as they are a fair bit more dear…but that is for another time [teaser: 5 unique back-painted bindings, each reflecting a major theme]. Finally, that Jamie is barely 30 bodes well for the future. He has produced some remarkable work (see, e.g. Albert, Ernest & the Titanic)…but this hints of things to come. I, for one, cannot wait.

A Modest Proposal from ror conaty on Vimeo.

 

Aug 072017
 

 

We are beginning to release a series of special themed short lists, this one inspired by the “death positive” movement, not just for collecting, but for understanding about death culture and documentation.

Death Becomes Her” can be viewed on our catalogue page, along with other catalogues of the mostly recently past.

Next big fair is ABAA 41st Annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair, November 10-12, 2017! Can’t wait!

 

Jul 242017
 

I have had the great pleasure of working with Gabby Cooksey since she burst forth from North Bennet School and began inflicting her genius upon the world. I had the great pleasure of placing her first binding in Univ. of Virginia’s Special Collections and the greater pleasure of watching her explore, evolve, and expand with each new work. I have said since I saw her first work that she makes design decisions as a new, now young, binder that I would expect from one with decades under her belt… Part of this is to NBS’s credit, but much has to do with Gabby’s profoundly subtle and sophisticated way of looking at her projects and finding elegant solutions at nearly every turn…

It was not long before she branched out and began writing text, creating art, and printing all elements of some projects. Thus we have today’s gem: The Book of Penumbra, of which Gabby writes,

“Death has always fascinated me because it happens to all of us yet no one talks about it. I wanted to see what other cultures personified death as through myths and legends. The gods in this book are very hushed and for some, even if you speak the name, you’ll be cursed. I wanted this book to be shadows, to be played in the light. I chose a delicate paper so one could see through to the page behind it. The text is in all sorts of shapes because I wanted each story to represent the god being told about. For instance, Sedna is in the shape of drowning, Anubis is his eye, Mac is a pit with someone at the bottom. The borders are all plants, roots, and things found on the earth. Some represent death like the poppy, and the yew tree.”

Completed in an edition of 23, bound in wraps, and housed in a box with an inlaid coffin, it is a beautiful bit of work. As she is seldom content with ‘exquisite’, I received a package out of the blue and found a one-off art binding of the book with seven skulls suspended by gold in the cut-through front board (insert above). Always pushing, always expanding…ever brilliant. I am always excited about what she will produce next. Explore the book below…

Jun 012017
 

 

Yes, despite what we complain about, there are things we enjoy about the approaching summer. That includes attending the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section conference in Iowa City! Lux Mentis will be part of the Bookseller showcase this year, along with many other fine booksellers. We are especially excited to feature our selection of book arts and primary source materials in keeping with this year’s theme, “The Stories We Tell.” We are also sponsoring the panel: “MATERIALIA LUMINA: THE CONTEMPORARY BOOK IN ITS HISTORICAL CONTEXT: PHILOSOPHICAL MUSING OF THREE MASTER PRINTERS” featuring Peter Rutledge Koch, Russell Maret, and Gaylord Schanilec.

As a large part of our mission we aim to support especially book arts and book narratives, so we will have a good selection of artist’s books and both pictorial and literary narratives. A few of our latest acquisitions will be featured including works by Ximena Perez GrobetLorena Velázquez, Alexandra Janezic, Maureen Cummins, and Sam Winston. As usual, we will also bring a few challenging and provocative things.

Before the show, we will be attending the Chicago Book & Paper Fair and during the week of RBMS we will also be attending the Solstice Book Fair organized by book artists, Alexandra Janezic and Candida Pagan.

Until then, keep reading, keep collecting! See you in Iowa City!

 

May 092017
 

We haven’t been quiet, just busy with all these new acquisitions and cataloging. Please peruse our latest occult / esoterica catalog n.2 under the catalogs tab.

Some of the featured new items:

 

Apr 242017
 

For those who have seen the proto-type for Maureen Cummins’ newest work we were showing in CA and NYC, we are pleased to say that the work is complete and ready. Maureen just forwarded the following prospectus, which summarizes the work quite perfectly:

The/rapist is an investigation into the gendered history of psychosurgery, as illustrated by the career of Doctor Walter Freeman (1895-1972). A Professor of Neurology with no formal training in either surgery or psychology, Freeman popularized the pre-frontal lobotomy, an operation in which nerve connections to and from the frontal lobes—the seat of human emotion, creativity, willpower, and imagination—are severed. A self-styled showman who drove ice picks through his patients’ eye sockets, rode around in a “lobotomobile,” and conducted a 1953 tour dubbed “Operation Ice-Pick,” Freeman freely admitted that his work created a “surgically induced childhood,” with many “failed outcomes.”

It is a history that raises numerous and disturbing questions about patients’ rights, the abuse of institutional power, and the disproportionate targeting of women. Of the 3,500 or more patients that Freeman operated on, twice as many were female, many depressed or suicidal housewives. Even now, electroshock—Freeman’s favored method of anesthesia—is applied to female patients two to three times as often as males.

In the opening pages of the book, Cummins uses the analogy of physical rape to suggest the way in which psychosurgery became a form of violence-against-women (and men) perpetuated in the name of medical progress. The concept is textually and visually reinforced as the reader pages through the book: the title, “The Rapist” morphs into the word, “Therapist?” while a laser-cut hole bores through the book, penetrating silkscreened images of patients’ heads. These headshots, “before-and-after” photographs that Freeman used to document his work, are re-contextualized, with lines of typography mimicking blindfolds, reclaiming for these patients a measure of dignity, humanity, and anonymity. Throughout the book, the artist’s mordant sense of humor is in evidence: The name Freeman transforms into “Free Man,” while found images—everything from advertising cuts of arrows and pointing fingers to reproductions of Freeman’s ice picks—serve as illustrations, providing ironic counters to the subject matter, often—as with the sunburst, moon, and encircling question marks—cleverly incorporating the hole.

Constructed entirely out of aluminum, The/rapist is inspired by the cold, hard surfaces of medical clipboards and equipment, as well as by Freeman’s actual tools, viewed by the artist in the Freeman/Watts collection at GWU, where she conducted her initial research. Pages of the book are laser-cut, burnished on one side, printed with multiple layers of text and imagery, “dimpled” to prevent scratching and wear, then mounted within rings to a sturdy baseboard. The text is printed in Frutiger, a classic mid-century sans-serif typeface. Images reproduced in the book are 19th century engravings, handwritten notes and text, as well as graphs and headshots from Freeman’s 1950 textbook Psychosurgery: In the Treatment of Mental Disorders and Intractable Pain. The book is housed in a burnished aluminum box with a screwed-down aluminum title plate. For exhibition purposes, copies can be propped up vertically, with the backboard acting as a stand, or positioned with the pages fanned out in a pleasing sculptural form.

Detailed images are available upon request. As you may or may not know, the prices for Maureen’s work step when a certain number of sales have been hit. As this is an edition of 40, we encourage you to let us know as soon as reasonably possible should you wish to add it to your collection.

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