A generall practise of physicke : Wherein are conteined all inward and outward parts of the body….

London, Impensis Georg. Bishop, 1598.


FIRST EDITION. Folio pp. [xx], 790, [cxxii]. A¹⁰, A-3D⁸, 3E-3S⁴. Black letter with some Roman and Italic. Woodcut printer’s device on title, woodcut floriated, historiated and white on black initials in various sizes, grotesque woodcut tail-pieces, typographical headpiece, “Edwardi Pytts. xs 1600” at head of title page, index notes in an early hand on rear fly, medical recipe in a contemporary hand on rear pastedown. Title page fractionally dusty, very light minor water-stain stain to first index, and on last two leaves. A fine copy, crisp and very clean in contemporary English calf, covers bordered with a double blind rule, spine with blind ruled raised bands, remains of green silk ties, lower joint cracked, a little rubbed and scratched.

A beautiful copy of the first edition of the english translation by Jacob Mosan of this monumental medical treatise, from the German text, ‘Ein new Artzney Buch’, by Christoph Wirsung, first published in Heidelberg in 1568. Wirsung divided his work in the classic order of “a capite ad calcem”, from head to foot, in four parts, in which the head, chest, stomach, organs, limbs and their diseases are treated. This is followed by four further parts, where skin diseases and fevers are described, followed by chapters on the plague and poisoning. The eighth part is very much a cookery book and describes the uses of wines, beers, oils, food, gold waters, spicebreads, marzipans and spices with detailed instructions on their preparation. This work gives numerous botanical remedies in the form of pills, powders, and syrups. Ailments are divided up in chapters, like “Of the fainting of the hart in generall” “When any are infected with the Plague,” with more specific and related symptoms following. The treatments recommended are exhaustive and are mostly botanical, although non botanical remedies such as enemas, baths, bloodletting, and plasters are included as are dietary and lifestyle advice. His treatment for infertility was interesting. “Wirsung is inclined to a mode of thought which separated barrenness differently with regard to the sexes. To augment seed (not explicitly male), among the usual plant remedies he recommends the stones of ‘Buls, Cocks, Bucks, Rams, Bores, and all their pissels’; for women, since the causes are more complex and largely humoural, the remedies vary greatly, though still relying on vegetative matter. In a short chapter at he end, spices and vegetables are supplemented by the ‘stone of a bore hog being two years old, and the pissel of a stag shaven smal halfe an ounce, fower paire of Foxe stones, and fiftie or threescore Sparrowes braines’ added to many other ingredients to make a confection for both sexes” Alasdair A. MacDonald. ‘Scholarly Environments’.

Sir Edward Pytt (1546-1618) had a lucrative office in the Court of Common Pleas. He bought Kyre Park in 1575 and started building “I bought John Bentley freemason from Oxford (where he wrought the newe addition to Sir Thomas Bodleigh his famous library)…”. The Folger Shakespeare library have a finely bound copy of one volume of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs that Edward Pytt bought in 1573, for 21 shillings, and which he gave to his son, James Pytt, possibly as a christening present. This work at ten shillings was considerably less expensive 27 years later, though it does not have such a sumptuous binding.

There are two issues of this work, one by Bishop and one by Bollifant. Estc gives no precedence but states that the Bishop edition was registered with the Stationer’s Register in 1597. A handsome and fresh copy of this most interesting work with interesting provenance.

ESTC S111714. STC 25863. Wellcome 6758.


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