Monday, December 29, 2014

Women's makeup in the 17th century

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Woman with a Mirror by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), c. 1640

This article was originally published at Your Wardrobe Unlock'd. The first part cover the history of makeup, the second my interpretation of makeup using period recipes.
 
After making the mid-17th century wig I started to think about what kind of makeup that would be suitable for the 1650’s. Period makeup is probably the most overlooked part in a re-enactors outfit, especially as not wearing any makeup at all is almost always a proper choice. Makeup was usually reserved for the upper classes, but not all ladies who had the means used cosmetics. Personally, I find the history of cosmetics fascinating and for the past two years I have made several makeup products after old recipes, which I feel gives new layers and a deeper understanding of what people found attractive two or three hundred years ago. In this article I will give an overview over the mid-17th century fashion of makeup, followed by two makeup looks made with cosmetics based on period recipes as well as suggestions of makeup choices for creating a suitable 17th century look.

Cosmetics in the 17th century
Makeup fashion were rather static in the 17th century, but in both the first and lasts decades of the century makeup were generally applied more heavily than the mid-decades. Fashions doesn’t appear in a vacuum and the rather heavy-handed use of makeup that was popular in the early 17th century didn’t really fit with the more informal styles in clothes and hair that became popular in the late 1620’s. It is also very likely that the religious wars that affected many European countries during this period influenced how people used, or not used, makeup. The Puritans in England definitely did, and though they did not completely abhorred expressions of vanity for women, like jewelry and well-dressed hair, they were very much against the use of makeup.
 
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Lady in black by Bartholomeus van der Helst (1613-1670), c. 1640

The use of makeup was heavily criticized in various pamphlets, and not all critics took a religious stance. Many voices expressed the opinion that a woman who used makeup were a deceiver and a cheat and if she was able to cheat with her looks, she would also be capable to cheat on her husband. John Bulwer’s Anthropometamorphosis, first published in 1650, describes all kinds of makeup and body modification that the contemporary Englishmen and women could indulge it and condemned it, basically because they were, in Bulwer’s eyes, borrowed from non-European, and therefore inferior, cultures. There was, however, also people who defended the use of cosmetics, seeing nothing wrong with wanting to look as beautiful as possible. And makeup was, of course, still used, regardless of what the critics said.
 
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Detail from Woman in a mask
 by Wenceslaus Hollar (1617-1677),
 1643

To be considered truly a beautiful woman in the 1600’s must possess a white skin. To achieve that she stayed away from the sun as much as possible and it was very common to wear masks when venturing outside to protect the skin. There were also a quite a range of cosmetic products aimed to keep the skin fair and remove pimples and spots. Skin care could range from the extremely dangerous, to practices that could be used today, depending on what the cosmetics contained. The lady who used vitriol oil or Mercury water to exfoliate the skin, followed with a toner made with lead and using makeup with lead and mercury would have destroyed her looks quite quickly, not to mention endangered her general health. On the other hand, the women who followed the more sound advice of washing their faces with wash balls morning and evening, following up with a with a toner of Bran water and using almond oil or pomatum morning and night, could certainly keep her skin in good condition. Washballs were made of shredded soap, mixed with herbs and spices, which made the soap last longer, added scent and also gave a mild exfoliating effect. Pomatums were a cream, which generally contained fat, bees wax and spermaceti, the grandparent of modern Cold cream. Other popular ingredients in skin whitening waters were lemon juice, alum, egg white and borax, or, a bit more exotic or just plain gross, snails. Teeth could be cleaned with powders containing, for example cream of tartar, myrrh or cinnamon.
 
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Girl at a mirror by Paulus Moreelse (1571-1638), 1632

To the general beauty regime, a well to do woman could then apply makeup. Compared to modern standards, this was quite primitive and consisted mainly of white and red paint. There were, however, more than one option and though some pigments used were very toxic, others were not and can be found in beauty products today.


White paint
Lead white or Ceruse, a white pigment that has been used in makeup for thousands of years. It is very toxic, but both cover and adhere to skin well, which is probably why it was the most popular white pigment in makeup until the 19th century when Titanium dioxide came into production. Titanium dioxide is used in cosmetics today is usually used as a lead white substitute, but it is 50% more opaque than lead white, so it should be mixed with an equal amount of rice powder.

Mercury sublimate, a white pigment with a slight sheen, it also has a whitening effect of the skin. As it is derived from Mercury it is extremely toxic, though countries with less discerning cosmetic laws still sell whitening skin products that contains it. If you find it, don’t use it! It’s difficult to say with what to substitute Mercury sublimate with, but one could probably get something similar if one mixed some Bismuth with Lead white substitute.


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Detail from Catherine Dormer, daughter of Montagu Bertie, 2nd Earl of Lindsey
 by John Michael Wright (1617-1694), 1659
Bismuth oxychloride, a white pigment with a very metallic shine. It is used in modern cosmetics, especially mineral makeup, but many people are sensitive to it. Titanium dioxide with mica looks quite similar and can be used instead.  In 17th century texts Bismuth is often called Tin glass.


Talc, very fine white pigment without much coverage. As it is so fine one should take some care not to inhale it.


Pearl powder, real pearls that in the 17th century were dissolved in lemon juice or vinegar and dried into a white powder. Today it is made from very finely milled pearl, but the finished powder looks and behaves the same way as the powder made from dissolved pearls. The whitening effect is slight, but due to the nacre it is light-reflecting and evens out the skin tone. This was a very exclusive and expensive pigment in the 17th century and was often substituted with Bismuth. It is used in cosmetic products today.
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Detail from Anne Sophia, Countess of Carnarvon by Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641)
 
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Katherine, Countess of Chesterfield, and Lucy, Countess of Huntingdon by Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), 1636-1640

Other white pigments used were calcined (burnt) bones, rice powder and ground alabaster. White paint could be made of just one kind of pigment, or a mix of different ones. One recipe, for example, uses Ceruse and Mercury sublimate, mixed with rosewater and lemon juice. The white pigment could, at times, be mixed with a little red to make pink or flesh-coloured makeup. There was also a distinction between women who wore heavy white makeup and those who used less, enameled versus powdered ladies. Enameled ladies mixed the white pigments with liquid or pomatum to create a foundation that covered the skin well. Powdered ladies did just that, they powdered their faces and regardless of choice of pigment, the result would be softer and more natural. To make the powder adhere to the skin, it was moisturized with an oil or pomatum beforehand. One recipe recommends white poppy seed oil before powdering the face with calcined bone.
 
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Detail from Anna Margareta von Haugwitz by Matthaeus Merian the Younger (1621-1687), 1648 or 1651

Just using white paint and no other kind of makeup was perfectly normal and many portraits show women who are extremely pale, but on the whole, red paint was added to complete the makeup.


Red paint
Vermillion, or Cinnabar, a orange red pigment made from Mercury. As with Mercury sublimate, vermillion is very toxic, but somewhat confusingly, vermillion was also used for Dragon’s blood, a bright red resin that is quite safe to use. Vermillion can also be substituted with red Iron oxide.
 
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Detail from Dorothy, Lady Dacre by Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641), 1633

Cochineal or carmine, a crimson pigment derived from a small scale insect. It is still used in makeup today.


Red sanders and brazilwood are shredded timber from two different kinds of trees, both unfortunately considered endangered species. When soaked in alcohol they colour the liquid a brownish red.


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Portrait of Anna di Cosimo de' Medici by Justus Sustermans (1597-1681), 1652-1653
Alkanet, a dark, cool toned red vegetable pigment. The pigment works best it in rouge that is fat-based. Safe to use.


Red ochre was used as a cheap rouge for lower class women in the 17th century. Rouge could also be made from the meat from the claws if river crabs, which was then dried, powdered and mixed with alcohol. Another rouge was made from mixing madder,  myrrh, saffron and frankincense which was applied to the skin and left there overnight. Sally Pointer tried this recipe in Artifice of Beauty and reports that it leaves a distinct apricot stain on the skin that lasts for several days, so great care must have been made to apply it properly!

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Detail from Henrietta Boyle, Countess of Rochester by Peter Lely (1618-1680), c. 1665
Rouge was used both on the cheeks and lips, though a kind of red makeup crayons was used where the red pigment was mixed with ground alabaster or plaster of Paris. Mouths were painted with well-defined lips in red, small mouths were considered beautiful, but there is no indication that lips were painted smaller than they actually were. Rouge were applied on the cheeks quite low, imitating the look of a natural blush. Excessive use of rouge can sometimes be seen on portraits, and most of these well-rouged ladies seem to be French.

Other kinds of makeup
Not much makeup was used apart from white and red paint, but there are recipes for black paint to colour the eyebrows. Most portraits show women with groomed, but quite natural eyebrows, though. Eyeliner and mascara were not used, even if the custom of using kohl in the Orient was known and actresses used to line their eyes with black to make their eyes more visible on the scene. Eyeshadow in brown, grey or blue seems to have been of some use, though. It was applied close to the eye and this may be what Bulwer complains about when he abhors the horrible practice of painting circles around the eyes. Some portraits from the period do seem to show eyes that are delicately shaded, like some, but not all, of the court women Sir Peter Lely painted. There are also a few mentions of women painting blue veins on their foreheads to indicate a delicate and translucent skin.
 
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Detail from Portrait of Oopjen Coppit by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), 1634

The mouche or the black patch was a very popular beauty device in the 17th century and it reached it’s absolute height in popularity toward mid-century. It was cut out in velvet, silk or paper in a variety of shapes and in the 17th century, it was considered most fashionable to apply a large number of them all over the face. It had more than one purpose; it could hide blemishes, but also just be applied to highlight the white skin or a particularly fetching feature. The fashion of patching spread quickly down the social ladder, through lower class women wore fewer patches. At the end of the 17th century, this changed and a lady of class started to wear a few well-placed patches and the use of a multitude was begun to be seen as something slatternly, indicating an immoral lifestyle, the many patches hiding the marks of venereal diseases.

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Detail from A Lady as a Shepherdess by John Greenhill, c. 1665
 
Bibliography
Corson, Richard Fashions in makeup: from ancient to modern times, London : Peter Owen, 1972
 
Gunn, Fenja Artificial Face: History of Cosmetics, David & Charles, 1973
 
Pointer, Sally The artifice of beauty: a history and practical guide to perfumes and cosmetics, Stroud : Sutton, 2005
 
 
 
Salmon, William Polygraphice, or, The arts of drawing, engraving, etching, limning, painting, washing, varnishing, gilding, colouring, dying, beautifying, and perfuming in seven books: exemplified in the drawing of men, women, landskips, countreys and figures of various forms, the way of engraving, etching, and limning, with all their requisites and ornaments, the depicting of the most eminent pieces of antiquities, the paintings of the antients: never published till now, together with the original, advancement and perfection of the art of painting, and a discourse of perspective, chiromancy and alchymy: to which is added, I, the one hundred and twelve chymical arcanums of Petrus Johannes Faber, a most learned and eminent physician, translated out of Latin into English, II, an abstract of choice chymical preparations, fitted for vulgar use, for curing most diseases incident to humane bodies, The fifth edition, enlarged with above a thousand considerable additions, adorned with XXV. copper sculptures, the like never yet extant, London: Printed for Thomas Passinger and Thomas Sawbridge, 1685.

Wecker, Johann Jacob Eighteen books of the secrets of art & nature being the summe and substance of naturall philosophy, methodically digested, first designed by John Wecker dr in Physick, and now much augmented and inlarged by Dr R. Read, a like work never before in the English tongue, London : Printed for Simon Miller, 1660
 
William, Neville Powder and paint: a history of the Englishwoman's toilet, Elizabeth I-Elizabeth II, London Longmans, Green, 1957
 





 
























Friday, December 05, 2014

Styling a mid17th-century wig

This is part two of an article first appearing in Your Wardrobe Unlock’d. The first part covered thehistory of the hairstyle as well as some 17th century hair care. Here is a step-by-step instruction for creating the style. The hairstyle is perfectly possible to make of one’s own hair, I have made an early, frizzy version with shoulder length hair, for a later version one needs longer hair or/and some false hair to fill it up

Styling the wig
 
There are several different ways of setting curls on a wig, like using a steamer or dipping it in boiling water. I bake mine in the oven and I don’t use curlers. You will need , apart from the wig, a wig head and, to make styling easier, a wig stand, a comb, bobby pins and a spray bottle with plain water. If you prefer to use curlers, then use them, but personally I prefer to make standing pin curls and then you need something that will function as a dowel, like an old mascara wand.


A standing pin curl is fairly easy to make. You begin with wetting the wig and then combing out a hank of hair, making sure that it is smooth before placing the dowel under the hair, a bit over the ends.
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First wind up that short bit of hair on the dowel, which will secure the tops underneath the rest of the hair as you continue to roll up the hair around the dowel. It may be easier if you fold a piece of paper, like Kleenex, around the ends before you start rolling. Roll up the hair as far as possible and then carefully remove the dowel.
 
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You now have a tube of hair that you secure from both ends with booby pins. The great thing with standing pin curls is that you can vary the size of them after the thickness of your dowel and as there are no rollers, the hair dries faster.
 
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Wigs can be made out of real hair or synthetic. My wig is synthetic and begun its life as a straight extra long wig. It then became an 18th century wig that the cats got hold of, so the first thing I had to do was to wash and comb it. It is much easier to start with a brand new wig! The main inspiration was this portrait of Queen Christina of Sweden, painted around 1650. I like the rather informal style and being Swedish I also like to know that this is a style that was definitely worn in Sweden.
 
 
Secure the wig on the wig head and make sure that you know were the mid front is.
 
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If you want a fringe or curls over your forehead, then leave out some hair in the front, before combing the rest of the hair on top of the hair back, making sure that it is even on both sides and secure into a ponytail.
 
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Comb the hair on the back of the head into another ponytail that you have secured just under the first hand. The ponytails will be the chignon on the finished wig and don’t have to be curled, so just pin them up so the ends are out of the way.
 
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Now you will need to curl the hair on the sides. Make the curls vertical and wind the hair away from the face. My main inspiration had rather irregular curls so I didn’t bother to make the curls identical on both sides. Start from the top and work your way down. Do both sides.
 
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The last thing I did was to curl the hair that I had left out at the front.
 
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When the wig has been put up in curls the way you want it, it is time to set it. Now it is time to wet the wig really well. I usually hold it underneath the tap, gently squeezing each curl to make sure that the wig is damp throughout. Heat the oven on a very low heat, 50-60 Celsius/122-140 Fahrenheit as you don’t want to melt your wig. Place the wig, still on its wig head on a clean baking tray. As the back of this wig isn’t curled, I placed my wig on its “back” in an oven proof dish to make sure it wouldn’t roll and crush the curls.
 
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Keep it overnight in the oven on the lowest heat, letting the wig first steam and the dry out. Upon removal, let the wig cool completely and check out the curls to make sure it is all dry. If not, then it needs to get back in the oven for a couple of more hours.


Now it is time to style it. Make the chignon before you take away the booby pins/curlers from the sides. How you do it is really up to taste, you can make a rope twist, a braid or just a plain roll. The fancier your clothes, the more elaborate you can make the chignon. My wig was very long and I had a lot of hair to make a chignon of. The first ponytail was twisted and pinned down to a shape rather like an 8, leaving two strands of hair free.
 
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Then I crossed the free strands over the middle of chignon to neaten it up. The rest of the hair was braided and then I finished the chignon with winding the braid around it.
 
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Then I removed the booby pins from the sides. What one does with the curls is really up to taste. They could be brushed into a frizz or just lightly combed to split up the curls. I liked the look of just pulling the curls out with my fingers.
 
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The last step was to arrange the curl at the forehead.
 
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Ready to be decorated and worn.
 
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EDIT: After wearing the wig I have found that the curls are too long so I plan to cut them shorter and probably sew the cut bits on the wig to make the side curls fuller.


Monday, December 01, 2014

The 17th century "spaniel ears" hairstyle

This article first appeared on Your Wardrobe Unlock'd. As it is rather long and Picture Heavy I will make it into two blog posts. The first part will cover the hairstyles history as well as 17th Century hair care, the second part will cover a step-by-step tutorial how to create the hairstyle.


Young woman with side curls by Wenceslaus Hollar (1617-1677), 1645


I am venturing into a new costume territory this year, the 17th century, or, to be more precise, the 1640’s. With new clothes, comes the need for hair that is suitable. A very popular hairstyle in the mid 17th century was a style when the hair on top and back of the head was shaped into a chignon, or bun, placed rather high on the head and with the side hair hanging loose. By 1650 this style had already been popular for about twentyfive years and it had still twenty years of popularity to go, but during that period it went through several incarnations. To go through, and name, all the variations and names it had would be well out of the scope of this article, but I will describe some of the more significant changes it had over time. When it first came it was called “spaniel ears” and for ease I will call it that throughout the article. I will also talk a little about period hair care and show how I set and style a wig for a look fitting for the middle years of the 17th Century.
 
The same woman, back view by Wenceslaus Hollar (1617-1677), 1645
 
Fashionable hairstyles in the 17th century
 
In the beginning of the 17th century women’s hairstyles were high, worn over pads in front, coiled into a chignon in the back. Around 1615 this hairstyle started to phase out, it got lower on top and fuller around the ears. This softer and less formal way of styling hair corresponded well with a changing fashion in clothes, which also grew less rigid with a higher waist and lower collars. In the 1620’s the hairstyle this article concern became popular, though it was worn alongside more strict hairstyles as well. At first the side hair was quite short and either hanging in rather loose curls or arranged in a frizz that made the name “spaniel ears” quite fitting. Sometimes women also wore their own version of the male lovelock, one or two hanks of hair that was longer than the other curls. Sometimes they were pulled together close to the tops with small bows and there were also a variation were none of the hair was hanging loose, but completely gathered together. A short fine fringe was very common, possibly the first time fringes came into fashion in Europe and it could either be straight or arranged in small curls or loops, clinging close to the face. This hairstyle was worn by all classes, though the lower classes tended to forego the curling.
 
Leonora Christina, Countess of Schleswig and Holstein by Karel van Mander (ca. 1610-1670)
 
Portrait of Queen Consort Henrietta Maria of France by Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), 1632-35
 
The chignon, which originally was quite small could be arranged into a number of different ways, a plain bun, braids, puffs or coils of hair shaped into an O. It was very often decorated with pearls, either braided into the chignon or twisted around it or shaped like a hairnet. Queen Henrietta Maria of England was portrayed several times with a crown or tiara encircling her chignon. Ribbons and bows were also popular decorations and the chignon could also be partly or completely covered by a bourrelet, a padded and decorated cover, shaped like a crescent.

Painting in profile of Henrietta Maria, Queen of England by Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), 1638


Lady with Her Maidservant Holding a Letter (detail) by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), ca. 1667

Messenger by Gerard ter Borch (1617-1681)

 
In the 1640’s the side hair got longer and more abundant, arranged into more structured curls, looking more smooth and glossy rather than frizzy. At times the hair was left uncurled, though that was a fashion that seemed to have been more popular with the middle classes. The fringe disappeared and though curls could still decorate the forehead they became fuller than previously. It also became popular comb all the hair back, leaving the forehead completely bare. The chignon grew larger to balance the long curls.
 
Princess Louise Hollandine by Gerard van Honthorst (1590-1656), 1642

The rather simple style of the 1640’s was still popular throughout the 1650’s, but more elaborate versions were also seen. The section of hair on top of the head that was combed back into the chignon became broader, with the effect that the loose hair started just over the ears. The curls also grew more elaborate, giving the style more width around the face than previously. The use of false hair, by no means unknown earlier, became more popular to help achieve this effect and sometimes even wire constructions were used to allow the curls to defy gravity. It also became increasingly popular to decorate not only the chignon, but the loose curls with pearls, ribbons and bows.
 

Countess Beata Elisabeth von Königsmarck by Hendrick Munnichhoven, ca. 1654
 
 
Portrait of Anne Bulwer by Gerard Soest, 1654
The elaborate hair grew even more complicated in the 1660’s, with a more extreme width around the face. In general, there was a trend toward shorter curls, often with a few long locks hanging down from them. A simpler version with loose curls hanging more straightforward down remained in style, but it was still a lot more complicated than it had been twenty years earlier. The forehead was often decorated with an arrangement of very elaborate curls. In the early 1670’s the hurluberlu took the fashionable world by storm, a new style where the hair was shaped into a shock of short, wild curls all around the head, and the spaniel eared hairstyle that had remained popular for such a long period of the 17th century, finally became obsolete.
 
Portrait of Margaretha Delff, Wife of Johan de la Faille by Jan Verkolje (1650-1693), 1674

Haircare
 
Thick, curly and glossy was the ideal hair for the 17th century and though blonde hair was popular, brown hair was quite modish as well. There were a number of recipes for hair dyes that promised golden locks with the help of rhubarb, saffron and the light of the sun, silvery white tresses from a decoct containing thistles as well as recipes for red and black hair. Most startling, perhaps, is a recipe for green hair, with the help of distilled capers. The tints rarely had any real staying power, though. Hair powder to change the colour of the hair had been known since the late 16th century, but even if it remained in some use throughout the 17th century, it didn’t suit a hairstyle with long flowing curls. It is difficult to keep hair powder on loose hair and the visual effect of dry powder is far from the glossiness one can see in portraits.
 
Queen Consort Catherine of Braganza by Peter Lely (1618-1680), 1665
 
Curls could be set with curling irons or with rag, paper or even pipe clay curlers. To maintain the curls the hair could be prepared with a setting lotion. Decocts containing flax seed, lemon juice, gelatine or sea weed had been in use at least since the 16th century and gum arabic, a water soluble resin, or egg white could also be used. A recipe for hair care to ensure a good curl gives the advice to wash the hair with a solution containing quicklime, then to anoint the hair with either myrtle or olive oil, powder it with perfumed powder and then put it up in curls and cover it with a cap over night. If one did put up the hair like that carefully every night, the recipe promise that the whole process of washing only needed to be repeated once or twice every week. Quicklime is not the best substance to wash hair, it can irritate eyes and skin, but it is related to potash which lye and soap can be made out of.


Myrtle and olive oil were also advised as good for keeping split ends at bay and there is no doubt that it would help hair that had been stripped of its natural oils by a quicklime wash. It may sound odd to powder the hair before curling it, but the main ingredient in hair powder in the 17th century was starch, and today that is what dry shampoo mostly contain. The powder would soak up excess fat from the oil and would then be combed out the next day when the hair was arranged for the day. One could also opt to boil Maiden hair, a kind of seaweed with salt and water to a honey-like consistency as a kind of leave in conditioner and then wash it with a wash made of beet leaves, fern roots and gum arabic, after that it was supposedly easy to curl it any way that was wanted. Hair too frizzy and unruly could be combed with oil of rose, lilies or marshmallows, two or three times a week to make it easier to maintain.
 
 
Catherine Howard by Wenceslaus Hollar (1617-1677), 1648
 
Bibliography
 
Corson, Richard Fashions in hair: the first five thousand years, 9. impression with supplement 2001 by Caroline Cox, London : Peter Owen, 2001


Lowery, Allison Historical wig styling. Ancient Egypt to the 1830s, Burlington, MA. : Focal Press, 2013


Pritchard, Will Outward Appearances: The Female Exterior in Restoration London, Bucknell University Press 2007


Salmon, William Polygraphice, or, The arts of drawing, engraving, etching, limning, painting, washing, varnishing, gilding, colouring, dying, beautifying, and perfuming in seven books: exemplified in the drawing of men, women, landskips, countreys and figures of various forms, the way of engraving, etching, and limning, with all their requisites and ornaments, the depicting of the most eminent pieces of antiquities, the paintings of the antients: never published till now, together with the original, advancement and perfection of the art of painting, and a discourse of perspective, chiromancy and alchymy: to which is added, I, the one hundred and twelve chymical arcanums of Petrus Johannes Faber, a most learned and eminent physician, translated out of Latin into English, II, an abstract of choice chymical preparations, fitted for vulgar use, for curing most diseases incident to humane bodies, The fifth edition, enlarged with above a thousand considerable additions, adorned with XXV. copper sculptures, the like never yet extant, London: Printed for Thomas Passinger and Thomas Sawbridge, 1685.


Sherrow, Victoria Encyclopedia of hair: a cultural history, Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2006