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How did you learn the art of swimming? Perhaps your parents signed you up for swimming lessons at the local pool, or  your grandpa did the old fashioned daredevil of sending you directly to study out of necessity. You may have found a way. Swimming is often learned through practice rather than reading, but not always. In fact, this practical ability is immortalised in this book. The first treatise on swimming in English was Everard's translation of his Digby book in 1587  entitled De Arte Natandi, or the Art of Swimming. With amusing woodcut illustrations, this bizarre book shows and explains how men and women  float, propel, and otherwise frolick in the water. 

Written by Cambridge University theologian Digby,  the book was originally published in Latin. An English translation followed, but the woodblock prints were understandable to anyone, regardless of  language ability. Digby explained the theory behind many of the striking techniques still taught today, such as "swim like a dog," "step on water," and "knee forward in water." . His goal is clear. "Safety first!" He even explains how to properly enter and exit the water, which is depicted in a manner similar to the River Cam in Cambridge,  which he would have been familiar with.

But safety wasn't the only reason men and women wanted to swim in the 16th century. The author writes, "Not only should she be honoured for this tremendous help in the extremity of death, but as every human being should do, even in the most comfortable and safe times of life." What not to do, especially when: "When..." helps cleanse the skin of external contaminants and impurities such as perspiration and relieve the body's extreme heat... "

He also emphasised other health benefits based on the scientific thinking of the time that linked juices with health, stating, "Eliminating poisoned juices, killing epidemics and resulting in long-lasting natural And if Fisicke is worthy of admiration.” Since it goes back to human life, this art of swimming protects human precious life in the turbulent waters of a lawless land where neither wealth nor friends are born. May we join the ranks of science. Not only the liberal sciences and other arts themselves can save him from mortal danger. "
If swimming is a science, you can study it too. However, certain punches were judged to be of low value. This includes things like crawling or immersing your face in  water. Still, it was natural to swim. Later swimming theorists would argue it was a civilised practice, but for Digby it seems to have instinctively resembled a fish. But unlike fish, males and females can do  more in the water. The next time you swim in the summer, remember Digby had the ideal month for the activity. Be sure to read his archives for tips on techniques that are over 400 years old.

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