If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
-- Isaac Newton
(and anyone who has ever been assigned a term paper on a weird topic)

The library has finally coughed up my 19th c. loan book about migraines. On Megrim, Sick-Headache, & some allied disorders, by Edward Liveing. It is a rather more substantial book than I expected, especially in library-style case binding, and I did not have much fun hauling it all over town for the afternoon. I have learnt that I have to make my library run on the way into work at 1pm rather than on the way out of it at 6, if I want to have any chance at all of getting back on the Green when I come out.

I've only flipped through it, but I'm pretty sure I know where Sacks got his chronic case of hyperannotatia. Liveing doesn't get quite as ambitious with the length of his footnotes, but to make up for it, a good proportion of them are in untranslated French.

The fact that this book exists at all is rather interesting. The copy I have is Volume IX of a series of classic neurology and psychology texts, put out in 1997. The author is listed as Liveing, of course, but the man who arranged the printing signs himself off in the Foreword as Nicholaas Arts, presumably of the company who publishes these things, Arts & Boeve Nijmegen.

Arts, as it turns out, originally tracked the book down for the same reason I did: He was a great fan of Oliver Sacks, and Sacks mentions Liveing's work in several pieces. It was the book that prompted him to try his hand at a more humanistic style of case study. (The style of Migraine and Awakenings was heavily influenced by A R Luria's The Mind of a Mnemonist as well, but that book came out after Sacks had started writing his first manuscript.) Arts shifted from medicine into publishing specifically to reprint things like this.

How Sacks came by his copy, I have no idea. WorldCat says it was extremely out of print between its initial run in 1873 and the 1997 Nijmegen edition, and he read it in the late 1960s. I suppose someone could have waited thirty years and started making photostats, but it's a little hefty for a foray into samizdat. It seems to have fallen into obscurity rather quickly; I'd never heard of it other than from Sacks, and I'm the sort of person who has more than one anecdote that starts with, "It was Friday night, so I was drinking and reading neurophamacology papers on the internet..."

In short, I have a copy of this doorstopper now because somebody read the work of somebody who had read the original, and decided it was worth doing some intellectual genealogy. Turns out that if the giants happen to lumber in the right direction, standing on their shoulders lets you reach the weird shelves in the library.


Popular posts from this blog

The mystery of "Himmmm"


WARNING! Sweeping generalizations inside!