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Healing Words

The Printed Handbills of Early Modern London Quacks


Roberta Mullini

During the English Restoration, London unlicensed health carers printed handbills as the easiest way to advertise their medical practices. In order to increase our awareness of irregular medical practitioners as a cultural phenomenon and examine their language, two collections of handbills have been transcribed. The study analyses the lexicon used to address readers, the traits of orality in written communication as well as the places where proprietary medicines were sold. Furthermore it looks closely at the visual impact of some handbills and the role of anti-quack satire at the end of the seventeenth century.
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4 How Quacks Addressed their Audience


Here I might give you an account how he manageth a Stage to his advantage both in City and Country […] How first his Buffoonries are exhibited in publick to attract the People, and having congregated a great many, Mr Doctor, who is in ken, comes and ascends the Stage, where having walkt to and fro very stately, and filling his hands with papers, and small vials, he then begins to disgorge the names of those diseases he not long since swallow’d, which, like vomits, will no longer be contain’d; he then tells you what excellent Pills, Plaisters, Powders, Spirits, Oyntments, Balsoms, Waters, and Elixirs he hath for all diseases that ever were, or shall be;

(Richard Head, Proteus Redivivus)

Harangues, Handbills, and Title Pages

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