Home medical book from 1866

A few weeks ago, I was at a flea market and saw a book.  A home medical book from 1866.  The vendor was asking more money than I had with me and I was sure he wouldn’t take what I had so I went off and bought some cabinet cards and a book on Queen Victoria instead.  But, I spent all of the next week thinking about that medical book.  I had a bit more money on hand last weekend so I went back to the vendor, praying it was still there.  It was, and he was willing to sell it for less than his asking price (he actually sold it for the amount of money I had on me the weekend before….go figure!)

Gunn’s New Family Physician or Home Book of Health. Nursing the sick, physiology, physical culture, and sanitary economy.

It is a bit of what my son calls a tome….

It is a whopper of a book isn’t it! It has a really nice cover on it. I think it will be my new coffee table book.

The book was at one time owned by this fellow…..

The property of Albert Henry.

I wondered a lot about this Albert.  Was Henry his last name or his second name?  Was he interested in medicine as a career or just as knowledge?  Was he the original owner from the 1860s or did he find this in a flea market in, say, the early 1900s and then wrote in it (horrors)?

This drawing of the writer is at the beginning of the book.

Dr Gunn was a doctor who wanted to demystify medicine.  His goal was not to replace doctors but to make the general populace more “consumer savvy” and less likely to be taken in by quacks and snake oil salesmen.  Dr Gunn wasn’t just a doctor of the body.  He was a devote Christian, it seems, and wanted to share his faith with his readers. His introduction was basically a “sermon” about where God fits into a person’s health.  The gist of it was, if a Christian were ill, he/she needed to think of it as God using it as a means to draw the believer closer to himself and to cause more reliance on God.  It could also be the means that God uses to bring the believer home to him (ie death).  If the reader was not a Christian then illness was a means for God to point out sins and hopefully get the patient to rethink the error of his/her ways. Heavy drinking was used as one example for this.  Heavy drinking is a “sin” and a sign of being out of relationship with God and this, this and that are illness caused by that drinking and lack of relationship.  I got the sense that Gunn felt that no matter what medical treatments were prescribed for what ever illness, the patient’s primary concern needed to be figuring out what God was trying to tell them.

Next week I hope to share Gunn’s views on the power of the mind in healing.  We, to this day, believe that positive thoughts aid in getting better faster.  If you think you will suffer horribly after a knee replacement, you will be slow  to get moving and slow to see progress.  If you think things will get better the minute the last stitch is put in, you will get moving faster and perceive your pain to be tolerable, temporary and worth it.  Gunn’s views are not too far off from that.  The interesting thing is the stories he tells to illustrate that power of the mind.  They are pretty “far out”!

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