(London: Henrie Denham, 1576). 198 x 130 mm. (7 3/4 x 5 1/4"). 12 p.l., 258 leaves.
Translated from the Latin by George Baker. FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH.
Modern marbled calf, blind-stamped medallion at center of covers, raised bands, red morocco label, all edges gilt. WITH 86 different woodcuts (some of these printed more than once, for A TOTAL OF 130 WOODCUTS), including an allegorical woodcut on title page, arms of the 17th Earl of Oxford on verso of title page, and full-page woodcuts on three section titles (two depicting a scientist in his laboratory, the other showing a dragon), woodcut initials and tailpieces. With frequent neat ink marginalia in a contemporary hand. Luborsky & Ingram 11798; Durling 2088; Duveen, p. 247; Ferguson I, 316; Osler 641 (note); Waller 3523; Wellcome 2801; STC 11798. Small scratch to upper cover, text lightly washed and pressed, leaves a shade less than bright, other very minor issues in the text (B3 with neatly repaired short tear, affecting two words, tiny burn-hole affecting a few letters, Ii1 with two small repaired holes affecting the ends of two lines, occasional rust spots or minor stains), but an excellent copy, clean and still fresh internally, with excellent impressions of the woodcuts, in a virtually unworn binding.
This is the charmingly illustrated first appearance in English of an important treatise on the distillation of plants into medicinal remedies, which in Ferguson's words "evinces considerable knowledge of practical pharmaceutical chemistry as then practised," and "contains some singular remedies and some curious ideas" on the part of Swiss polymath and physician Conrad Gesner. A posthumously-published second part to Gesner's 1552 "De Remediis Secretis," the text here was first issued in Latin in 1569. In preparing this English edition, translator George Baker also consulted and included information from the English version of the first part of Gesner's work, "A New Book of Destillation of Waters," translated by Peter Morwen and first printed in 1559. A particularly appealing aspect of the present work is the art: the woodcuts depicting workers distilling medicines and the alchemist in his study are detailed and intriguing, and the delightfully whimsical scene on the final section title shows a horned and winged dragon lapping from a bowl of water, his tail wrapped around a tree bearing distilling vessels from which birds fly forth. Luborsky & Ingram note that human figures in the woodcuts appear "in contemporary middle-class dress, such as supervisors in long gown and flat cap and workers improbably clad in slashed hose while others labor in tattered clothes." Ferguson says of Gesner (1516-65) that "there is no more notable man in the history of learning and of science in the 16th century." A suggestion of Gesner's versatility can be seen in the fact that for a quarter-century he was professor of both ethics and physics at Zurich and a practicing physician during the same period. He was astonishingly productive, publishing 72 works and leaving 18 others unfinished. But this work is not often seen in the marketplace, and when it does appear, it is typically incomplete or in woeful condition. The last complete copy at auction since 1995 was at the 2007 Macclesfield sale, where it brought a hammer price of £8,000 (the equivalent of $16,654). (ST14944)
Add to Cart Price: $30,000.00
PJP Catalog: NY19BF.081