The secretes of the reuerend Maister Alexis of Piemont. Containing excellent remedies against diuers diseases, woundes, and other accidentes, with the maner to make distillations, parfumes, consitures, dyinges, colours, fusions, and meltinges. .. also somewhat enlarged in certaine places, whiche wanted in the fyrst edition. Translated oute of Frenche into Englyshe, by William Warde.

London, by Ronland Hall, for Nycolas England, dwellynge in Pater noster rowe, 1562.


The second part of the Secretes of Maister Alexis of Piemont. By Willyam Ward.

London, By Rouland Hall, for Nicholas Englande, 1563.


The thyrde and last parte of the Secretes of the reuerende Maister Alexis of Piemont, Englished by Wylliam Warde.

London, By Henry Denham, for Iohn Wyght, 1566.


4to. Three works in one 1) ff. [vi], 122, [x] *⁶, A-Q⁸, R⁴. 2) ff. [ii], 79, [vii]. A², A-C⁴, D-M⁸, N². 3) ff. [i], 15, 17-75, [ix]. A-B⁴, C-L⁸, M⁴. Black letter with some Roman. Woodcut printer’s device on each t-p, floriated woodcut initials, contemporary and slightly later marginal notes in English in places, “cum liber ** ** Magdalensis” partly crossed out in contemporary hand in upper margin of first t-p, latin inscription in same hand below, slightly later autograph of John Howard around printer’s device, C19th armorial bookplate of the Marquess of ‘Downshire’ on front pastedown, Otto Orren Fisher’s on fly. Very good copies, crisp and clean, with good margins in early C19th Russia, covers bordered with single gilt rule, spine expertly rebacked and laid down, with gilt ruled raised bands, Downshire monogram with coronet gilt in top compartment, a.e.g.

Rare and valuable collection, the third edition of the first and the second edition of the next two, each slightly enlarged, of these books of recipes, and cures, often medical and pharmaceutical, but advising also on subjects as diverse as the care of wine, fruits and horses, the gilding of the edges of a book and the making of printer’s ink. The authorship has been ascribed to Girolamo Ruscelli, a claim first made by Muzio; this was disputed by Ferguson (op. cit.) but is stated in new STC. The first three parts were translated by William Ward, and first published, separately, between 1558 and 1562. The advice offered is variously cruel, ingenious, and superstitious. Attention has been given to Alessio’s recipe for ‘oil of a red-haired dog’, to make which, to use Thorndike’s paraphrase, “the dog is to be seethed in oil until it disintegrates and then combined with scorpions, worms, herbs, marrow of hog and ass, and other ingredients in a prescribed order” (Thorndike V 216). “Like Porta’s ‘Natural Magic’, the ‘Secrets’ are in large measure a printing, continuation and further development of the medieval manuscripts of secrets and experiments, containing medical recipes, waters, oils and colours” (Thorndike op. cit.) Printed in Venice in 1556 and two years later in England, its publication gave considerable impetus to the genre of the book of secrets. This was part of the Paracelsian revival, the turning away from the rules of classical medicine and the authority of Galen in particular, towards natural experimentation. The work was published in every European language, and around 79 editions have been recorded. It greatly encouraged natural experimentation in England, from which in part came the very productive (and voluminous) fields of experimental husbandry by authors such as Hugh Platt, and the grand systematising work of Francis Bacon.

STC 296, 301, 306. This edition not in Duveen. See Ferguson Vol. 1 pt. 3 pp. 36-38 and Lowndes I p. 28n. Italian and French editions only in Vicaire, ‘Bibliographie Gastronomique’ (p. 12). These editions neither in Durling, Wellcome, Osler, Caillet or Bitting. No edition in ‘Heirs of Hippocrates’. Oberlé 1066 (French edition). Levinson Catalogue 60 I 17 (1595 edition) “it is one of our early sources for the history of psychiatry”.


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