Drink Sassafras Tea While on Spring Break

Just today I cataloged a book into our collection. It had been resting on the shelves for years, unconsulted because it had been undescribed. That’s the way it is with most rare collections. Like everyone else, though, we are dealing with our backlog.

The book in question is:

A description of the Spanish islands and settlements On the Coaſt of the West Indies : Compiled from authentic Memoirs, Reviſed by Gentlemen who have reſided many Years in the Spanish Settlements : and illustrated With Thirty-two MAPS and PLANS, Chiefly from original Drawings taken from the Spaniards in the laſt War and engraved by Thomas Jefferys, geographer to His Majesty. London : Printed for T. Jefferys in St. Martin’s Lane, near Charing-Croſs, 1762.

It’s got wonderful maps in it, maps which must have kindled the Wanderlust of at least some readers. The descriptions are good reading, too. Here’s part of what is written on page 68 about Florida:

“The Spaniards of San Matheo, and St. Augustine, having been almoſt every one ſeized with fevers, from the uſe of bad food and muddy water, were told by the French to take ſaſſaſras in the ſame manner as they had ſeen it uſed by the ſavages: that is to cut the root into ſmall pieces, and boil it in water; having done which, and drinking the liquor faſting, and at their meals, they found it perfectly cured them. Several other experiments have been made with it; and, if we may believe them, there is hardly any malady which can withſtand the efficacy of this drink. It was their ſole remedy, and univerſal preſervative, in Florida; but when they are ſhort of proviſions they do not uſe it, becauſe it would create an eager appetite, ſtill more inſupportable than any diſorder whatever. They add, that ſaſſafras is an admirable ſpecific againſt the venereal diſtemper.”

Sounds like it’s good stuff.

Our call number for this Rare Collections item is: 917.29 J365 1762. There are 36 other holding libraries for it in OCLC’s WorldCat, but the only other one in the Commonwealth is Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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Published in: on 7 March 2007 at 3:39 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. How fortunate is the erudite and eccentric soul who may find several sasafrass trees in his own back yard!
    Ann

  2. very interesting.
    i’m adding in RSS Reader


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