Sunday, November 23, 2008

Five best: rare books on early America

For the Wall Street Journal, Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, a former rare-books dealer, named a five best list of "rare books on early America."

One title on the list:
An Account of the Method and Success of Inoculating the Small-Pox ...
by Cotton Mather

Cotton Mather is best known for his incendiary influence on the Salem witch trials, but he was also an intellectual omnivore, a prolific science writer whose interests included rainbows and rattlesnakes, cures for syphilis and Indian methods of keeping time. Having witnessed the devastation of smallpox epidemics, Mather was fascinated when one of his slaves told him of a form of inoculation practiced in his native Sudan. Mather found writings on the subject by Turkish doctors and English scientists eager to try it, and he soon threw his religious passion behind a campaign for inoculation trials in Boston. The campaign faced fierce opposition, but American medical history was born here, in a conversation between a Puritan preacher and his African slave.
Read about Number One on da Fonseca-Wollheim's list.

--Marshal Zeringue