Secondhand Rows 

Join Stephen Reid, our secondhand maestro, every month here as he takes a closer look at a couple of titles from his shelves.

April 2019

 - Friday, March 29, 2019
Even after three decades in bookselling, one can still be surprised—and intrigued—by some books that cross one’s desk. Here is an example.


A reprint of the EETS 1910 Edition. This is a reproduction of an Early Fifteenth Century Manuscript translation. Edited by D’Arcy Power. No dustjacket. Age browning to page edges. Book is clean and unmarked inside. Near Fine condition. $40.00.
Fistula in Ano is the Latin term for an Anal Fistula, which is best described as an abscess or cavity with an external opening in the area between the rectum or anal canal. Haemorrhoids are swollen veins in the lower region of the rectum that cause itching and bleeding. Clyser is liquid injected into the lower intestines by means of a syringe. An enema. Finished wincing yet? John Arderne (1307–1392) was the first notable English surgeon who managed to devise workable treatments and cures for many ailments. His practice was open to people of all classes. The wealthy were charged a substantial sum, the poor were treated free of charge. ‘I John Arderne from the first pestilence that in the Year of Our Lord 1349, dwelt in Newark in Nottinghamshire unto the Year of Our Lord 1370 and that I healed many men of fistula in ano.’ The opening paragraph of his treatise. This is my Modern English translation. The text is written in Middle English—spoken after the Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th Century. Similar to reading Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the original. (Remember doing that in High School?) The editor’s useful margin notes help the reader along. John Arderne records his first patient, the Knight, Sir Adam de Everingham of Tewksford, who suffered from an anal affliction. Sir Adam had visited surgeons at Poitiers, Toulouse, Gascoigne, Narbonne ‘and many other places…and all forsook him for a cure’. He had lost all hope of recovery until: At last, I John Arderne came to him and did my cure to him and Our Lord being my instrument, I healed him perfectly within half a year; and afterward, whole and sound, he led a glad life of 30 years and more, for which I got myself much honour and long praise in England.’ Treated in 1349, Sir Adam lived on until 1387. One can still sense Arderne’s justifiable pride.
It is no surprise that the nobility comprised a large part of Arderne’s patients. The Hundred Years War, waged between England and France at this time, would have kept the English Knightly class busy. Apart from the savagery of medieval warfare itself, long hours in the saddle, often wet and cold, burdened by battle armour that weighed up 30kgs (65 lbs), would often lead to the condition requiring Arderne’s medical skill. Chronic constipation by both medieval diet and sedentary habits, would have also caused anal ailments in many of the religious and civil population. How John of Arderne treated his legion of patients is shown in this work. It describes both his operative procedures and his code of conduct for the ideal medical practitioner. A final grimace of sympathy is given for medieval patients when viewing the contemporary illustrations of medical instruments included in this unique volume. Stephen

Kanaval: Voudou, Politics and Revolution on the Streets of Haiti: Photography and Oral Histories by Leah Gordon, $45
Vodou, sex, death & revolution are key ingredients in the stunning themes & visual imagery of the street theatre of Kanaval in Jacmel, Haiti, where the men drag-up, wear diabolic cow horns, whip lassos & carry around dismembered doll parts. Light years away from the sanitized corporate-sponsored tourist parades of carnival throughout the world, this event is a vessel for everyday Haitians to shock & sexualize through masquerade to mock local politicians, replay the slave revolt that gave birth to Haiti, the world’s first Black Republic, and to commune with the dead, with both personal & historical ancestors. With words by novelist Madison Smartt Bell, Don Cosentino, Richard Fleming, Katherine Smith & Myron Beasley, this book is a fascinating combination of photography, cultural & historical analysis, anthropology & unique oral histories.

Beginning with a ‘temporary line’ to the International Exhibition of 1879, Sydney’s steam tram network rapidly spread into the far corners of the city. Today’s long-established suburbs such as Coogee, Bondi Beach, Dulwich Hill, Leichhardt & Rozelle took shape along the tracks of these quaint little hissing, whistling Yankee ‘steam motors’ hauling ungainly double-deck cars where conductors, on a windy day, would provide women with ‘modesty laces’ to secure their skirts. More than just a convenient means of transport, the ‘Juggernauts’ & ‘Manglers’ became an indispensable part of the city’s social fabric: a bloody accident rate, the nefarious deeds of larrikin conductors, wolf-whistling drivers & the Bondi tram that ‘shot through’. This book isn’t just for steam buffs, it is a vivid portrait of the bustling metropolis that was Victorian-era Sydney.