MEDICINE 112 YEARS AGO IN TRANSYLVANIA: "THE BOOK OF HEALTH", 1904
In early 2016 I found by chance in my parents library, an old book with yellowed pages, called “The Book of Health." Subtitles have edifying contents: “Manual of hygiene for superior civil schools and pedagogical for girls”. Also has the purpose to be “Hygiene adviser for the educated woman in various stages of life”.
The author is extremely qualified for any era: dr. Stefan Erdelyi, doctor in philosophy, medicine and surgery, magister of obstetrics, professor approved of hygiene for medium schools and school doctor, city doctor in Szaszvaros - Orăştie.The book appeared edited by “Tipografia Nouă” from Szaszvaros – Orăştie in 1904, being at its first edition. After being printed, the book was read carefully for revision and at the end of the book was added an erratum of one page. For the technical conditions of that time, the volume was written in Romanian 2 – 3 years before and the approval for high school and the printing took another 1-2 years before. We estimate that the work of dr. Stefan Erdelyi took place and was completed around the years 1900-1901. I found extremely hard on the Internet references to the author, he appeared in the annals from Mediaș and Cluj of the Society that Promotes the Culture and Romanian Language ASTRA from Transylvania, then part of Austro-Hungary. The author lived between 1851-1911 and he was an avid stamp collector. In 1906 he founded the fiscal cultural stamp SPQR cheap, of 5 filler, as a tax next to the party tickets to finance the ASTRA from Sibiu (The stamp has been glued afterwards on the cover of the volume “The Book of Health." I scanned for many reasons, explained succinctly below, three important parts of the volume; we introduced what follows in the photo album that follows the article.
I read the first chapters full of curiosity and from the first pages it turned into astonishment, delight and respect in relation with an extremely rich content, accurately and easily understandable for the female students in superior civil schools and pedagogical for girls at the beginning of the last century, and more than that for educated women, regardless of age, and this 10 years before the First World War !! We will exemplify all this in what follows but before this I questioned myself about the state of fact of European civilization around 1900, to frame “The Book of Health", 1904, in the context of his time… I easily found a few representative answers about 1900…
Around 1900 there were no cars: Otto Benz introduced the first model in 1899, Ford in 1901, Daimler in 1902 ... Around 1900 there was no plane: Zeppelin flew its first hot-air balloon in 1900, the Wright brothers flew the first time in 1903, and in 1906 was Vuia. Around 1900 there was no submarine: Krupp founded the first factory of submarines in 1902… Around 1900 there was only the telegraph, it was not until later Edison improving the phone and the radio, and Tesla the alternative electric power and the light bulb. Nobel prizes were awarded since 1900 and have been awarded to Roentgen in 1901, to Marie and Pierre Curie in 1902, to Koch in 1903 and to Pavlov in 1904. Around 1900 there were no industrial medicines: Bayer invented aspirin in 1899, Einhorn the Novocain in 1905 ... Were known the quinine, ethyl alcohol, mercury, curare, cocaine, opium, various salts, existed mainly natural medication or various mixes made by pharmacists... Around 1900, regarding the microbes there were only the researches of Koch for tuberculosis, Pasteur for various vaccines and of Babeș for rabies... As you can see from these major examples, the human civilization was still in his pre-industrial era, with extremely little scientific/technical knowledge what seems natural today, contributing to the daily existence...
Even more extraordinary is the “The Book of Health" in 1904 ... The Prologue itself contains a vast exposé of human civilization and the content of the system of medium educational environment of those times, motivating the necessity / the usefulness for schoolgirls / readers / to know the human being in its biological entirety and in the near environment ... The content of the book is amazing, in the Table of contents finding in a logical order the human anatomy, physiology, personal hygiene, food, the type of nutrients, the choices that we made, the calories, seasonings, beverages, the hygiene of the nutrition, the drinking water, the air, the light, the heat, the home, the clothing, bodily exercises, sports, diet, etc. Also consistent chapters are devoted to the small child care of the adolescent, the various organs, of the sick person, the patient's nutrition, first aid in various cases of accidents, infectious diseases, caring for the ones in agony, taking care of the deceased. Philosophical considerations are inserted about ancient civilizations of the middle ages, about thinking, the soul, fixed idea, sleep, dreams, conscience, moral, humanistic ethic, about human relationships, about the different ages, about the agony and death... The author includes a fine humor from time to time in text (quote: The canine ... called the "eye tooth but this is only a story", or the Last Molar called the wisdom molar, "because it goes out when the man supposed to be wise" ....). Showing evidence at the same time of great courage and great diplomacy, the author manages to avoid completely any references to three major topics that have obsessed human civilization from the beginning and which are dominant to present day: religion, sexuality and politics, leaving these probably to those with special abilities, of course with the risk (then and now…) to being criticized by the enthusiasts of these debates about infinite themes…
We were interested primarily in the Chapter 1, The organs of digestion and their functioning and from this the first subsection: The mouth. We had the enormous and pleasant surprise to find paragraphs about: How to grab the food, The origin of the fork, The origin of the spoon, The chewing, The drinking, The role of the tongue, The role of the jaws, The movement of the jaws, The mechanic and chemical role of the saliva, The swallowing and of course The teeth. We were dumbfounded that in 1904 were known and submitted the tooth enamel, dentin, cement and pulp of the tooth, the number and description of the child and the adult teeth (temporary and permanent), the timing of the teeth eruption, tooth decay, oral hygiene, fillings, replacement of the missing teeth, and maybe, for the first time in Romanian specialized literature, the term of dentist....
Scrolling through the volume we encountered difficulties understanding the Romanian language which wasn’t mature enough, were still in its phase of Europeanization, importing and selection of neologisms, practically the forming and sedimentation... I met on the one hand surprisingly many perfect neologisms, we use exactly the same ways and with the same meanings in the year 2016, such as: hygiene, extraordinary, the orbit, composition, manipulation, imprudence, functions, physiology, efficiency, exercising, luxury, cranium, education, omnivorous, indissoluble, structure, somnambulism, hypnotism, parasites, muscles, economy, etc.
On the other hand, we found many so old terms as well surely regionalism, which disappeared during the last 110 years, which we hardly understood at the first reading and which took some time of thinking and analyzing, even reading again to understand their meaning inside the text and their role like: eschidi, amilum, instruat, nutremint, focular, cartilogină, buci, strătaie, plumbuire, amiros, crumpene, tea, oştie, macis, pomă, glicănuş, sprecerii, abnormă, morbos, ordinaţiune, lungorea, moarea, odorat, ose, contragere, aprețiare, nostran, umblătore, desinfițiare, culină, scălzi, bureți, căzaci, buboie, scursorea, inficiat, alfactoriu, bubat, frînturi...
For these reasons, for ease of understanding by the visitor of the website www.dentistdavid.ro of a 112-year-old book we've felt compelled to update the original text all the terms hard to understand and which are no longer used, with words from our present vocabulary. In the photo album on the bottom of the article each page in the landscape format contains original page scanning on the right in the Romanian language from 1904, and on the left the minimal upgrade in our current language easy to understand. They were not brought up to date other than the terms vital to the whole meaning of the sentence or phrases, being retained all the original words and expressions of the early 20th century ... This "translation" of ours thankfully doesn’t diminishes with anything nor the charm throughout the text, nor its intrinsic scientific value ... incredible for the level of Romanian and European civilization in 1904...
"The Book of Health" from 1904 is written with a huge common sense, calling the detailed knowledge of healthy and sick man and his environment, not just by the higher education medical graduates but also of the medium education women graduates and by any "educated woman in various stages of life" ... In retrospective we are wondering if the higher educational and pedagogical schools for boys had an equivalent book of Hygiene? And, if not, what huge difference of education between sexes was there since the beginning… Was there such a high-level education the beginning of women's emancipation movements??
Reading the manual of teaching in the pedagogic schools of the Romanian Transylvanian the Hygiene in 1904 reminded us inevitably of the subject Hygiene studied during the Faculty of Medicine and the manual back then. ... In a not random way, a bigger piece from its table of contents looks a lot like the one from 1904…The presentation made in this article of just 27 pages from 323 pages (almost 8 %) generates, of course, the curiosity about the contents of the rest of the book, especially after the reading of the Index (Table of contents, the third part updated) which constitutes a truly and charming scientific and cultural event by itself…
The actualization in Romanian wasn’t easy at all as well as the translation for the English version for the website, both successfully done by our collaborator,. All the work done in our free time took a while because of the necessity of many medical consultations and corrections of nuances took almost 6 months ... Maybe someone else will have the time, the courage and the pleasure to engage once at a full update of all the pages of the book ...
The present article aims to be a tribute to a great and extraordinary educator of Transylvanian Romanians from 1904, sadly it seems forgotten until now, dr. Stefan Erdelyi, doctor in philosophy, medicine and surgery, magister of obstetrics, professor approved of hygiene for medium schools and school doctor, city doctor in Szaszvaros – Orăştie.
Dr. Voicu A. David
DR. SVETLANA DAVID
General dental practitioner
DR. VOICU A. DAVID
General dental practitioner
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