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10 Weird Facts from the 1768 Encyclopaedia Britannica


A 1797 set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica

A 1797 set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica

As Encyclopaedia Britannica begins a hunt for the oldest privately-held edition, The Telegraph has published a list of 10 rather odd and wonderful “facts” about our world as written in 1768. (I checked AbeBooks listings and 1771 appears to be the oldest edition offered.)

For your amusement, here’s Encyclopaedia Britannica 1768: 10 weird facts courtesy of The Telegraph:

1. Humans and monsters

Homo sapiens were sub divided into five varieties: the American, the European, the Asiatic, the African and the monstrous.

2. Medicine

Cures for flatulence included drinking chamomile tea and blowing smoke from a pipe ‘through the anus.’

Visiting the dentist was, literally, a pain in the backside; cures for toothache include drinking laxatives, or bleeding in the foot. If the tooth is rotten ‘it will be best to burn the nervous cord which is the seat of the pain with a cautery; and then the cavity may be filled up with a mixture of wax and maslich’. Or, the French way was to fill the hole with another human/animal tooth of the right size.

Drinking tea or coffee was a common cure for heart-burn. Alternatively hot wine infused with camomile flowers and sugar was also thought to work.

3. Chocolate consumption

Chocolate was a luxury, and ready made chocolate and cacao paste were prohibited to be imported from overseas. It could, however, be made at home for private use ‘upon three days notice given to the officer of excise, and provided no less than half an hundred weight be made at one time.’

4. Aphrodisiacs

Vermicelli noodles were first brought from Italy, where the food was in ‘great vogue’; it was chiefly used in soups and pottages, ‘to provoke venery’ or sexual gratification.

5. Petrol

Petroleum was used as an ointment to treat pains of the limbs, and to try and cure paralysis.

6. Australia and New Zealand

Despite the fact that both lands had been discovered their existence was not recognised in the Encyclopaedia until they had been colonised.

7. California

The US state of Callifornia was spelt with two ‘L’s’ and is described as ‘a large country of the West Indies. Unknown whether it is an island or a peninsula.’

8. The solar system

The solar system was described as having six planets; Uranus, Neptune and Pluto have yet to be discovered.

9. New England

Boston, the capital of New England, had numerous English attributes. It was described as being defended by a castle and platform of guns.

10. Cheese

The cheese of Ireland was prohibited to be imported into the UK. Parmesan cheese was renowned abroad, especially in France.

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One Response to “10 Weird Facts from the 1768 Encyclopaedia Britannica”

  1. very funny :) thanks