It may be said that during the past five years the treatment and cure of general diseases has entirely changed; that more important discoveries and new and successful methods for the curing of disease have been proven and adopted during this time than in any similar period during the past century. The treatment of five years ago that was considered the best has given way to a better one. The old method of treating fever by shutting the patient in a tight room, smothering him with bedclothing, allowing no ice water, and dosing with medicine, was often followed with fatal results. The modern treatment is entirely changed. It does not matter whether the fever is typhoid in its character, pneumonia, or malarial fever, the patient is now covered lightly with a sheet, the room perfectly ventilated and the temperature largely controlled by the application of water externally. Measles, that used to leave patients with weak eyes and all sorts of trouble, is now easily treated by simple methods. The treatment for scarlet fever, that formerly renderd the patient liable to being left deaf or crippled, is entirely changed and fatalities reduced one-half. So we might mention the entire list of general diseases. It is not too much to say that the fatalities of all diseases have diminished more than one-half by the new treatments and cures adopted within the last five years. But even with this almost entire change and improvement in the treatment and cure of diseases, there is much that is valuable in the Medical Libraries and “Family Physicians” that have been published heretofore. To the latest medical works of our great universities and colleges that our editors have gleaned from, also for the information and knowledge gained from the older Family Doctor Books, such as

we desire to express our acknowledgment and widest thanks.



When my wife's grandmother, Bessie Sohn, was nearing the end of her life, among the family possessions that came to our house was a rather large book with the title "Medicology" on the spine. The book was about 5 inches thick, like one of the old Webster unabridged dictionaries. We had fun looking up things like how many times you needed to chew your food and so forth. Not long after, on a trip to Portland, I found a much shorter old book, "The Modern Practice of the Electric Telegraph", and set about creating an electronic version. Doing the same for Medicology seemed like a richer, but far more imposing project.

It was impractical to scan Medicology. Opening the book at all caused damage to the binding, and flattening it would basically destroy it. However, there is this thing called eBay, and there are a lot of copies out there in fair to poor condition that can be had for a song. So I snapped one up and unbound it.

This, however, was only the beginning of my troubles. At 1400 pages, this thing was much longer and more detailed that I had expected. The raised-type printing was imperfect (you can look at the scans and see for yourself), and the extra marks and odd fonts gave my OCR program fits. The project was set aside for over 10 years, but when I retired, I was basically out of excuses.

Cleaning up the OCR involves both proofreading and spell checking. You will quickly notice a lot of strange words, so I had to create my own dictionary, incrementally. However, the style is fairly regular, so tying the whole thing together with the indexes and illustrations really was not too bad.

One goal was to use search and blog type features to make the more interesting parts of the book more accessible. A lot of things that were believed, and written, back then are today considered funny or outrageous or sobering. More than once I wondered how people managed to survive back then. Somehow Bessie made it, and for that I am very grateful.

Please enjoy this window into the past.

Charles Keith

A Copy of Medicology
A Copy of Medicology

Printed Spine of the Book
Partial spine of the copy that was unbound

Pattern on Inside Covers
Inside Cover Pattern


Much as I would like to duplicate the original typography of the book, I have found that, on exploring that possibility, that it gets hard. Something as simple as converting all the oe pairs in "diarroea" (of which there are many!) would be easy to do, but would impair the usability of the text for searching, reading by the blind, etc.

But the problem gets much harder than this. The entity ℞ represents the recipe prescription symbol, and would be useful to use, but is rejected by my version of tidy, and does not seem to work in MSIE (although Firefox and Chrome handle it nicely). Certain of the prescriptions use the symbols for ounces and drachms, where implementation and documentation are even spottier.

This is ultimately one of the reasons that page images are available, the other being to resolve transcription issues. Given the complete text, a typographically correct version would be fairly easy to create, as a PDF for example. All of which would be unnecessary simply to baffle readers with a Latin prescription using archaic measurement symbols, since you could do that using the original image.

The result, hopefully, is a balance between fidelity and readability, and I have been striving for the right balance.


This page is maintained by Charles Keith.
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Last Modified: Monday, 25-Mar-2013 00:37:15 EDT