“Steward’s Healing Art” Audience: A healthy medical book still has its APPENDIX

There is ample evidence in Steward’s Healing Art (published in Saco, Maine 1827) that indicates Dr. William Steward’s desired audience. Through practice and application, he was able to assemble a collection of remedies for the common person. The book itself is also composed of inexpensive material.

(Yellowing, stained, thin pages of Steward’s Healing Art)

From the content of the written text, namely within the advertisement, the author’s intention was for this book to be used by a non-specialist. He boldly stated, “This Book can be owned by less or more in number, who may wish to correct their diseases and maladies by a botanical mode of treatment” (Steward 1, within “Appendix”). His objective was to distribute this book to anyone who was in need of it and willing to purchase it.

The text is also written in a clear way that the general public could understand. There is rarely any medical jargon and the author sets up the content in an easy-to-follow way. For instance, the index of the book contains a list, mentioned previously, of common ailments like measles. Under the measles section, the author includes a short description of what measles are followed by the symptoms and “Mode of Treatment”. This is a common layout for the remainder of the book. These ailments were not organized, as described in my previous post, alphabetically all the way through the book. This could be due, perhaps, to the commonality of the disease and the assumed familiarity of these diseases based on the intended audience. Steward could have added these diseases as his research progressed and decided to include them based on how frequently they appeared within the populace. Thus, I believe that if this book were meant for other doctors, it would include more complex language and contain a more diverse array of ailments.

There is also a detailed list in the “Appendix” section that describes how medicines can be made and which ingredients can be used. The ingredients that Steward utilized in his remedies and ointments were mostly accessible to an average person. The majority of the ingredients were not expensive and they have natural origins, including items that could be found around the house, in a garden or in a forest. These included pig lard and common vegetation such as nettle weed or balsam fir bark. Based on this textual evidence, the book was most likely used as a household item of which any literate person could utilize and understand.

Additionally, Steward includes descriptions of the book’s durability, which I read as being slightly boastful. He wrote (confidently), “…I will dispose of [the book] at some price, to the publick, which will be an additional help to them for fifty years to come” (Steward 1, within “Appendix”). The textual evidence suggests that he intends for this book to last a long time. Steward also claims, “This Book can be transported to any part of the United States without damage…” (Steward 1, within “Appendix”). With all this in mind, Steward’s persuasive advertisement indicates that this book was meant for heavy use and perhaps for hard traveling.

In the beginning of the “Advertisement.” he also states that he is creating another written work on “…thick paper, as natural as life itself” (Steward 1, within “Appendix”). This also reveals that he is conducting ongoing research and planning on using more expensive paper. The paper of Steward’s Healing Art is thin, which reveals that Steward has future plans of publishing another book of more valuable material. This could imply that he was attempting to include a more wealthy audience in his circulation.

(Steward’s boastful advertisement – in my opinion quite a humorous read)

Also, due to the small and worn nature of the physical book, I would have assumed its purpose was for the use of any persons requiring medical consultation. Disregarding the text in which the author clearly states this purpose, the nature of the material used infers that it is a hardy book that was built for traveling and heavy use. Observing the yellowing, cheap pages and lack of decoration, it is not ornate but made for the purpose of academic investigation and health restoration. The boards are thick and the leather that covers them has been rubbed away in many areas but the hinges are still strong. The pages are also not stiff and easily flipped through, suggesting that they have been handled extensively. They are, however, well bound and there are only two or so sheets that appear to have shifted from their original binding. These sheets are folded slightly and shifted upward so that they are not aligned with the remaining pages. The margins are also thin suggesting that this book was printed with frugality in mind.

(Steward’s Healing Art’s small stature with my hand for scale)

You can also see flecks of material that the pages are composed of in the below images. There are clear fibrous inclusions and extensive stains that have seeped through to other pages. If this book was intended for a wealthier or more learned audience the material would have most likely been more expensive.

(Flecks of material in paper – indicated with red circles)