A Fine Copy of a Book Meant to Elevate Homeopathy, but Advocating Henbane for Nymphomania, Cannabis for Tetanus


(London: H. Baillière, 1852-53). 263 x 165 mm. (10 3/8 x 6 1/2"). Two volumes. FIRST EDITION.

Publisher's olive green cloth, covers decorated in gilt and blind, spine attractively gilt, the volumes very expertly recased, with new appropriate endpapers. WITH 66 VERY ATTRACTIVE HAND-COLORED PLATES lithographed by H. Sowerby. Harvard Arnold Arboretium, p. 314; Nissen BBI 778. ◆Spines faded to brown, a few minor signs of use, but the bindings solid and definitely appealing. Occasional minor foxing, one plate with a small spray of black dots (from printing process?), but a fine copy internally, the text clean and fresh, and the plates bright, with pleasing colors.

This work promotes the efficacy of homeopathic remedies through the use of detailed botanical illustrations and thorough descriptions of 66 plants--from benign specimens such as chamomile and coffee, to hazardous species such as poison ivy and ergot. The descriptions of each plant include their botanical characteristics, history, means of identification, geographical distribution, physiological effects in humans and animals, parts of the plant used and methods of preparation, and their general use in homeopathy, as well as numerous case studies and clinical observations that supposedly prove the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies in the treatment of various physical and mental diseases. Edward Hamilton (1815-1903) was a member of the British Homeopathic Society and a Physician to the London Homeopathic Hospital, founded in 1849. In addition to providing a useful reference for practitioners of homeopathy, Hamilton attempts in the present work to elevate and legitimize the practice in the eyes of the public and the larger medical community. The origins of homeopathy go back to the end of the 18th century, but the approach became especially popular in the 19th century as an alternative to conventional Western medicine--often referred to by homeopaths as "allopathy"--whose methods at the time could be ineffectual or even dangerous to the health of the patient (for example, bloodletting and purging). Practitioners of homeopathy operate under the belief that "like cures like." In the words of the National Library of Medicine, this means that "Practitioners select a drug that would, if given to a healthy volunteer, cause the presenting symptoms of the patient. For example, the homoeopathic remedy Allium cepa is derived from the common onion. Contact with raw onions typically causes lacrimation, stinging and irritation around the eyes and nose, and clear nasal discharge. Allium cepa might be prescribed to patients with hay fever, especially if both nose and eyes are affected." Crucially, homeopathic remedies are harmless to the patient because they are diluted many times over--to the point that the active ingredient is an infinitesimal part of the solution. For example, when taken this way, the fatal Atropa Belladonna (commonly known as Deadly Nightshade), which "produces phenomena of inflammation in the peripheral tissues," is especially successful at treating ailments related to inflammation. The author notes that it was even administered as a prophylaxis against scarlet fever (dubious studies of which are discussed here at length). Other surprising recommendations in the book include Henbane for nymphomania, Bitter Cucumber for dysentery, and Cannabis for a range of maladies that include tetanus, acne, and gonorrhea. Our copy is in remarkably good condition for a work that was intended to be referred to again and again, with the hand-colored plates being unusually bright and especially well preserved. There are very few early homeopathic books with significant illustrations, and none approaching the level of detail and artistry seen in the present work.

Price: $3,250.00