Tag Archives: How to…

A line drawing of a crossection of a cow's skull. October 22

How To… Kill Animals Humanely

By Michael Sappol Is empathy innate? Are we all born with the ability to identify with the emotions of others, to feel someone else’s pain? Today’s media is chock full of stories about experiments in neuroscience and child psychology that seem to show that the emergence and growth of the ability to empathize is a […]

A man sits at a table looking into a microscope. June 04

How To…See with the Microscope

By Michael Sappol Microscopy was the coming thing in late 19th-century medicine. If you were an ambitious doctor, no matter what your field of interest, you probably wanted to own a good microscope, and apply it to the questions at hand. What do the structures of human and non-human bodies look like? How does that […]

An illustration of cut twigs heeled into the ground. March 20

How To…Plant and Graft All Sorts of Trees

By Michael Sappol The oldest English-language how-to at the National Library of Medicine is a charming and practical little book dating from 1575. In keeping with the custom of the day, the title also serves as a brief description of the contents: A booke of the arte and maner how to plant and graffe all […]

A sketch of the face of a man with a long nose and protuding jaw baring his teeth. January 29

How To…Read Personal Character

By Michael Sappol Human Faces, What They Mean! How to Read Personal Character, 1872 If you live in the 19th century, as I do, and want to know how to read people like a book, then read this book. Which is on “Physiognomy”— “the art, or science, by which the characteristics of the mind are […]

black and white line illustration of a boxers August 27

How To…Box to Win

By Michael Sappol How to Box to Win; How to Build Muscle; How to Breathe, Stand, Walk or Run; How to Punch the Bag: A Book of Health and Strength, 1900 This little book (5½” x 7¼”) is one of those charming turn-of-the-century hybrids that delighted readers in the golden age of illustrated newspapers and […]

Cover of The Bubonic Plague and how to prevent it pamphlet July 16

How To…Prevent the Bubonic Plague

by Michael Sappol The Bubonic Plague and How to Prevent It, 1897 This roughly-printed small  pamphlet (4¼” x 5½”; 30 pages) documents a big catastrophe: an outbreak of bubonic plague in British Colonial India. The disease came to Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1897 and swept through the city at a terrible pace. At the height […]

detail from the title page of A booke of the arte and maner how to plant and graffe all sortes of trees... July 09

How to… in the historical collections of NLM

By Michael Sappol The “how to” is an ancient genre. There are Egyptian how-to texts (in hieroglyphics) on how to prepare mummies; Sumerian how-tos (in cuneiform), on how to pray; Hellenistic how-tos (in Greek) on how to do geometry; Roman how-tos (in Latin) on how to seduce people; and so on. In English, “how to” […]