A Rare and Sought-After Guide to Medicinal Plants and Their Uses


(London: Printed for Charles Rivington, 1727). 198 x 122 mm. (7 3/4 x 4 3/4"). Two volumes. First Edition in English.

Modern retrospective speckled calf, raised bands. Title page with ink inscription of early owner Tho. Storer. Wellcome III, 253. A hint of rubbing to joints, edges of leaves a bit browned, occasional minor stains or light foxing, otherwise a fine copy, clean and crisp internally, and in a virtually unworn sympathetic binding.

Originally published in Dutch in 1710, this work, appearing here in its first English version, is the detailed materia medica produced by physician and botanist Paul Hermann, professor of botany at Leyden and director of the extensive botanical garden there. Hermann begins by explaining how medicines work on the human body, then discusses the properties and applications of all medicines in current use. The work is divided into sections covering substances by type--roots, herbs, seeds, flowers, animal or mineral materials, etc. There are indexes to each type of material, to Latin names of the plants, and to diseases being treated, offering users a number of ways to find the information they need. After graduating from the best medical school in Europe at Padua, the German-born Harman (or Hermann) (1646-95) was hired as a ship's medical officer by the Dutch East Indies Company, and spent five years with their fleet in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), where he collected plant specimens and reported on the local flora. He joined the University at Leyden on his return to Europe, and taught botany there for the rest of his career. According to DNB, translator Edward Strother (1675-1737) "was the author of a number of medical works, in particular making detailed comments on the problems and use of ‘Jesuits' bark' [cinchona] in fever, and on the treatment of smallpox." This seems to be an extraordinarily rare and sought-after book: RBH and ABPC together record just a single sale (in 2000 for the equivalent of just under $1,300).

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PJP Catalog: 74.122