What’s In The Lab: A Magical And Foreboding Book

Written by Erin Hammeke, Special Collections Conservator

I was sorry to see this item go back to the stacks last week! A German book of magical secrets, Clandestine Hausvaterliteratur (Jacob Biernauer; 1818) is a recent acquisition to the History of Medicine Collection. It contains information on astrology, superstitions, ghosts, spells, and recipes for poisons, gunpowder, and blond hair dye, amongst others.

The vellum cover was likely added by a previous owner of the text who may have inscribed the cover with a foreboding skull image. The cover was quite animated when it first came to us and, reacting to a dry climate, the skin contracted and became wildly distorted. Additionally, its corners had been chewed, likely by rodents. Here it is, before and after treatment.

Before Treatment

After Treatment