“Steward’s Healing Art” Additions: They really ADD UP (sorry for this one)

Overall, Steward’s Healing Art (published in Saco, Maine 1827) was written by Dr. William Steward and is a combined work of additions that have been assembled over time. There comes first “Steward’s Healing Art” followed by “A Concise Herbal” and then “The Appendix”, all of which contain healing methodologies and advice. Also, as explained in more detail below, the book contains renumbered page numbers for each section as well as having an unorganized index. These jumbled inclusions and disorderly patterns all imply a rushed printing process.

Additionally, as I mentioned previously in my first blog post, the printed components of Steward’s Healing Art are seemingly complex and overly decorative. There is a variety of bolding, italicizing, capitalizing, and other stylistic components. However, these stylistic choices are clues of past cultural shifts and remnants of a different time. A trend of “modernization” or becoming more contemporary is seen through the printers’ typographic decisions. With the improvement of casting type, a more diverse typography could be attainted, which then led to this popular printing style.

The theme of complicated and wordy title pages can be seen in other works from the early 19th century. For instance, these embellishments are found both in The Maine farmer’s almanack, for the year of our Lord, 1820 and The evangelical primer. (Early American Imprints, Series II: Shaw-Shoemaker, 1801-1819).  

(Similar styles of the time in The Maine farmer’s almanack and The evangelical primer)

This style was typical of the time and can be seen on the main title page of Steward’s Healing Art and on the following title pages for the second section “A Concise Herbal” and third section “The Appendix”.


















(“Steward’s Healing Art” pg. 9-126, “A Concise Herbal” pg. 1-40, “The Appendix” pg. 1-22 including postscript)

Aside from the titles, there are also headings and subheadings for each ailment, remedy, and treatment. As you can see from “Of the Leprosy” (see below), for instance, there are italicized sections indicating the causes and symptoms. Then in capitalized letters, there is the mode of treatment prescribed. This pattern is regularly seen for each of the ailments Steward includes in his book with the general arrangement as follows: name of malady or herbal treatment, a short description, causes, symptoms, and how to cure or use it. It is a simple and navigable scheme if a bit ornate. Also, the first introduction for the “Steward’s Healing Art” section and the second introduction for “A Concise Herbal” section have an identical “Introduction.” as the running head.










(Text organization and running head)

Also, the page numbers for each of the three sections are found on the top of the pages. The page numbers, mentioned previously, are reordered for each section. This leads me to think that the sections were hurriedly reprinted or in a manner in which the printer did not care to order the pages properly.

Another interesting piece of paratext is in the index. I’m not sure how helpful it is for navigating the text since it begins, satisfyingly, in alphabetical order but then becomes more jumbled further along the list. The first part of the list contains only one ailment for each letter of the alphabet. For example, it starts with “The Asthma” and then ends with “Worms”. After this ailment, the list becomes irregularly organized with maladies listed at random along with their associated page numbers.










(Index with alphabetical inconsistencies)

This was another curious find, which I assume is due to being added after the original section was printed and is an indication of a quick printing process. As I mentioned in the second blog post, Steward could have done more research and then contributed these new findings to a later printing of his book. This later printing could have also been rushed. This could explain why the page numbers restart for each section as opposed to having continuous numbering.

In “addition” to this (excuse the bad pun), there is also an advertisement for Steward’s Healing Art within the middle of the book. This advertisement pompously exudes confidence in being able to sell this book or destroy it at the end of the author’s life. It puts on quite a show of power with its “at my pleasure” attitude. I found this advertisement quite amusing as it portrays the author in a certain light that I would not affiliate with a doctor. Instead, it gives the impression that he doesn’t have to make this book available and can withhold it from anyone he wishes.

Another interesting piece of paratext is the postscript, which is encompassed within “The Appendix” and contains some rather bizarre information. It describes “Consumption” and how difficult it is to cure. Steward admits that he himself has not been successful in treating it in its entirety. A description of the Lobelia plant is also included and is apparently capable of killing a patient if not properly prepared. Lobelia is similar to nicotine and used to cure syphilis but it is also considered poisonous (Wikipedia). Another herbalist of the time, Samuel Thomson (1769-1843) of NH, discovered the healing properties of Lobelia (Wikipedia). But before that, when he was younger, he tricked other boys into eating it, which then induced vomiting (Wikipedia). He seemed like a great guy and perhaps Steward included some of his research in his own findings.

Due to the nature of the book’s layout, it can be inferred that people were not meant to read this book all the way through. Rather, I believe its purpose is that of a reference. A literate person could pick up the book and flip through the first 126 pages of prevalent maladies to find what they were looking for. Navigating Steward’s Healing Art is not terribly challenging but I have also spent a fair amount of time with this book. In conclusion, it is not the easiest book to locate specific ailments but once found, it is easy to find preventative and curative information.