Friday, March 16, 2018

Stimulating Reading

Typographic title page to Natural History fo Coffee, Chocolate, Thee, Tobacco.Most pamphlets published in the 17th century had the coffee-house crowd in mind as the audience. Coffee houses served as a kind of gentleman's forum for debate, and they would buy the latest tracts and have them available for their customers. These were the fodder for the political and social discourse that thrived in the coffee-houses. That is why we were excited to find this little gem. It is not an earth shaking polemic like one of Paine's tracts, but an almost self-referential pamphlet: The Natural History of Coffee, Chocolate, Thee, Tobacco (London, 1682). Added on is a tract on elder and juniper berries and another on making "Mum," an alcoholic drink made from wheat malt, oat malt and beans!

The favorite stimulants that get the lead billing were all still a little exotic in England. They were products of the New World or far off eastern lands. Their medicinal qualities are emphasized, surely making the gentlemen in the coffee houses feel enlivened by their good sense as they read, talked, and sipped.

Sorry, you can't bring your coffee or "thee" into Rauner, but you can enjoy reading about them by asking for Rare TP638.C53 1682.

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