Démence Précoce Catatonique Dermographisme. L Trepsat, 1893. From ‘Nouvelle Iconographie de la Salpêtrière’, 1904. During the second hald of the 19th century, the belief spread that the phenomenon of dermatographism (or ‘dermographism’, or ‘skin writing’) was linked to hysteria and other mental or nervous disorders. Here a female patient at the Salpêtrière hospital in Paris has had her diagnosis ‘Démence précoce’ (dementia praecox) ‘written’ on her back.
From the book On the Writing of the Insane (1870) by G. Mackenzie Bacon, medical superintendant at an asylum (now Fulbourn Hospital) located near Cambridge, England. The pictures are the product of a “respectable artisan of considerable intelligence [who] was sent to the Cambridgeshire Asylum after being nearly three years in a melancholy mood”. Bacon describes how the unnamed patient, for the two years he was committed, spent “much of his time writing"