How to Write Secretly

These snippets are from a charming little pamphlet entitled A New BOOK of Knowledge, written anonymously, and printed in 1697. A sort of proto-Mrs Beeton, the selected household advice runs from drawing out splinters, to how to write your name on a knife. What follows are some of the more intriguing entries:

How to Write Secretly: Take Alum, and beat it into a Pouder; then put some into a Sawcer of clean Water, till it dissolve: write with this, and dry it by the fire; so you may dispose of it how you please: but when you would read it, wet the Paper in clean Water, and it will appear of a Blewish Colour. There are divers ways of Writing privately, as with the Juice of Limons or Onions; but this exceeds all in my opinion, by reason the others may be seen before the Light, when dry; but this may not, if thoroughly dry.

To help a Chimney that is dangerously on Fire: Let two or three Persons take a Blanket or Coverlet, and hold it close to the Mouth of the Chimney that no Air may enter, and with a close Board, cover the Top of the Chimney; and the Fire, for want of Air, will soon be Extinguished.

Turkies will become very Fat in a short time, and prosper exceedingly, with bruised Acorns.

To keep Apparel, Hangings &c. from Moths: Brush them several times in the Year with a Brush made of Wormwood Tops, and you may rub them with Wormwood, especially when you discern Moths to haunt amongst the Hangings.

An Ointment to kill the ITCH: Take a pennyworth of Black Soap, and a pennyworth of Boars-grease, beat them together in Water, and anoint therewith when it itcheth.

To destroy Caterpillars: Besmear all the bottom of the Tree with Tar, then get a great store of Ants; put them into a Bag, and draw the same with a Cord unto the Tree, and let it hang there, so that it touch the Body of the Tree; and the Ants being prevented to go from the Tree by reason of the Tar, will want for Food, eat and destroy the Caterpillars, without hurting any of the Fruit or Leaves.

To take Fish: Set a Candle in a piece of Cork, as even as may be with the Water, which will stupify and attract the Fishes to it, so that with a little Hoop Not, upon the end of a Cane or Staff, you may take them with much facility.

To get Ink-Spots out of Linnen: Lay it in Urine immediately after the Ink has dropped on it, and there let it lye all night, and the next day wash it out again; and in so doing two or three times, you will find the Spots and Stains quite out.

To catch CROWS: Take white Pease, steep them eight or nine days in the Gall of an Ox, and lay them in some place where they use to come.

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  • January 18, 2010 - 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the comment. Intriguing details aren’t they. We need never fear an invasion of moths haunting our hangings again.

  • January 18, 2010 - 12:27 pm | Permalink

    A most interesting post. I’ve spent many a happy hour at the British Library, copying out cures and household remedies similar to those you have listed. Who knows, I might even get around to blogging about them myself one day!

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