Praxis medicinæ, or, the physicians practice: vvherein are contained inward diseases from the head to the foote.

London, Iohn Norton, for William Sheares, 1632.


FIRST EDITON thus. 4to. pp. [iv], 152, 151-182, 181-407, [v]. Roman letter, some Italic. Title within box rule border, floriated woodcut initials and headpieces, C19th ms. “Staunford Rutland medical library” at head of title and shelf mark on pastedown. Light age yellowing, mostly very light water-stain on first few quires, the odd mostly marginal spot or mark. A very good copy, crisp and clean in contemporary limp vellum, remains of ties, vellum a little soiled.

First edition of the English translation of this popular medical work by Walter Bruele, first published in Latin in Lyon in 1589, written for an audience of Physicians, surgeons, apothecaries and readers who were concerned about their own health. “The intended audiences …. were wide. Praxis medicinae, or, the physicians practice (1632), by the German physician Walter Bruele, was ‘published for the good, not onely of Physicians, Chirurgions, and Apothecaries, but very meete and profitable for all such which are solicitious of their health’. Lay people’s demand for this sort of information is indicated by the fact that many of the texts went through multiple editions.” Hannah Newton ‘Nature Concocts & Expels’: The Agents and Processes of Recovery from Disease in Early Modern England.’ The work is particularly interesting for being addressed to lay people, as it mostly concerns every-day illness; problems such as head-aches, melancholy, nightmares, palpitations, colic, gout, though does also include major diseases, such as syphilis and the plague. It systematically uses the same structure in its treatment of each disease, starting with a definition or explanation of the disease and its causes, followed by a variety or remedies, under the heading of ‘Preparers’, ‘Emptiers’ (including letting blood), ‘Averters’ followed by particular medicines to treat the illness. “the buyers and readers of medical literature came from the gentry and middling groups; …. the appeal of the advice books was that they offered the remedy of a coherent, persuasive and plausible structure of information as some kind of defence against fear and anxiety.” Anthony Fletcher. ‘Gender, Sex and Subordination in England, 1500-1800’.

Bruele’s work uses the classic format of ‘from head to foot’ starting with diseases that affect the head, moving systematically down the body. Though the work was mostly aimed at a lay audience Bruele did not hesitate from using painful or forceful remedies. “Occasionally, however, physicians did not remove the bitter ingredients, but instead compelled the child to take the medicine through use of force. In 1632 Gualtherus Bruele wrote that ‘If children bee  unwilling to receive bitter things they must be forced thereto’  by using ‘a sirenge, and by that means conveyed into their mouthes, & body.’” Hannah Newton ‘The Sick Child in Early Modern England, 1580-1720.’ “Practitioners could assist Nature by diverting the humours from the noble organs, and drawing them towards the exterior. Bruele stated that in cases of apoplexy, ‘there must … be used strong and painfull ligatures of the extreme parts, that … Nature being provoked by the vehemency of those pains, may drive out those ill humors … [from] the braine’. These interventions were supposed to be painful—it was the smart that they produced which drew the humours or cajoled Nature into action.” Hannah Newton.

A very good copy of this most interesting first edition.

ESTC S105941. STC 3929. Welcome.I 1903. Not in Lowndes.


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