CULPEPER, Nicholas

The Complete Herbal; to which is now added, upwards of One Hundred Additional Herbs, with a display of their Medicinal and Occult Qualities physically applied to the Cure of all Disorders incident to Mankind: to which are now first annexed, the English Physician Enlarged, and a Key to Physic. With Rules for componding Medicine according to the true System of Nature. Forming a complete Family Dispensatory and Natural System of Physic ... To which is also added, upwards of Fifty Choice Receipts, selected from the author's last legacy to his wife. A New Edition ... illustrated by Engravings of numerous British Herbs and Plants, correctly coloured from nature.

Published: London: Thomas Kelly & Co.

Date: c.1835 - 1845

4to. [2 (title)], [4 (index)], iii-vi (epistle to the reader), 398pp., engraved frontispiece plate (portrait and Culpeper's house), 20 plates (each with 9 hand-coloured botanical illustrations), contemporary half very dark blue leather, spine panelled by broad and shallow gilt decorated raised bands, panels very richly gilt tooled, title direct gilt lettered in gilt in one panel, purplish cloth sides,terminal leaves a little foxed, else very good. A handsomely bound copy.

Culpeper (1616-1654), studied at Cambridge, acquired both a good knowledge of Latin and Greek and an extensive medical background by extensive reading and by serving apprenticeships to two London apothecaries. Although he never became an apothecary, he claimed a medical qualification and, beginning in 1640, established a large and lucrative practice in London as an astrologer and a 'physician' - a not unusual combination among contemporary medical practitioners. "Although in essence [he] was a quack without sound scientific training, he was aware that science must be based upon study and careful observation [and] it was in this spirit that he translated many notable scientific works including such authors as Galen, Sennert, Rivière, Riolan, Vesling, and Glisson" [Heirs to Hipprocrates]. In the Civil War he sided with the Parliamentary forces but his short service ended when he received a serious wound in the chest. In 1649 he published an English translation of the London Pharmacopoeia under the title A Physical Directory, or a Translation of the London Dispensatory and in 1654 [actually 1653] the book was reissued under the no less offensive title Pharmacopoeia Londonensis, or the London Dispensatory. This unauthorized work and the virulent attacks on the more orthodox physicians outraged the English College of Physicians who declared that Culpeper had infringed their rights since they held a monopoly on the official dispensatory. "The fact all their secret remedies were now easily read in the vernacular was a matter of great concern, and Culpeper was subjected to many bitter attacks by the medical profession" [Heirs to Hipprocrates]. His pharmacopoeia nevertheless became popular even some of with the medical profession and it was reprinted several times right up to a final edition in England in 1718 and a Boston edition of 1720. Culpepper was a voluminous writer and among his other works were Astronomicall Judgement of Diseases (1651) and The English Physician Enlarged with 369 medicines made of English herbs (1653). The latter, although much inferior to many of the earlier herbals, was extremely successful and edition followed edition until the nineteenth century.


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