The regiment of lyfe, wherunto is added a treatise of the pestilence, with the booke of speciall remedies (experimented) for all diseases, griefes, impediments, and defects often happening in yong children.

London, by Thomas Este and Henry Myddleton, 1567


16mo. 256 unnumbered ll. A-Z, [et], Aa-Hh. Black letter, preface and title in Roman. Title within double line rule, white on black criblé initials, ‘Nicholas Dadeswell his book 1806’ in outer margin of title, early scribbles on verso. Light age yellowing, some dust soiling in places, occasional thumb mark and stain, lower blank portion of A6 restored, just touching final word, part of blank upper and fore-edge margins of last two leaves restored. A good copy in modern red morocco gilt by Blair Jeary, covers gilt ruled to a panel design, semée of gilt fleurons, spine with raised bands richly gilt in compartments, edges and inner dentelles gilt, a.e.r.

Exceptionally rare and important work, the first book on paediatrics written by an Englishman and amongst the earliest of any medical books to be printed in the English language. All early editions are very rare, surviving in a small handful of copies; ESTC records six copies of this edition, two only in the US, at the Huntington and at the University of Wisconsin. ABPC locates no copy of any edition at auction. The first two works are a translation by Thomas Phayer of ‘Sommaire et entretènement de vie’ by Jean Goeurot and ‘Régime contre la peste’ by Nicolas de Houssemaine. ‘The Boke of Chyldren’ anticipated many later trends in medicine. In recognising children as a special class of patient, his book was one of the first treatises to make a distinction between childhood and adulthood. He recognised various mental diseases, and listed some of the “manye grevous and perilous diseases” to which children were susceptible, including “apostume of the brayne”, meningitis, colic, “terrible dreames and feare in the slepe”, and ‘pissing in the bedde’. He counselled against unnecessary treatments for childhood diseases such as smallpox or measles: ‘The best and most sure helpe in this case is not to meddle with anye kynde of medicines, but to let nature work her operacion’.

“Thomas Phaer’s ‘The Boke of Chyldren’ (1544) is the first English book on paediatrics. The text, written in English for an English readership, popularises and communicates medicine in a radically new way: by stressing the importance of the vernacular, and by considering children as material, medical subjects requiring specialised health care. Contemporary focus stressed catechismal training or ignored children altogether as negligible, unformed adults. Extremely high infant mortality combined with death from early childhood diseases and general epidemic threat ensured children an emotionally-distanced place in early modern English society. Poised between folk beliefs and a rudimentary empiricism, Phaer’s book, which enjoyed multiple reprintings throughout the last half of the sixteenth century, attempts to close that distance. Anyone coming in contact with this little medical tract stresses its importance and singularity. In 1925, John Ruhrah declared Phaer “the Father of English Pediatrics,” adding, “the first book on pediatrics printed in English should not be permitted to remain a curiosity, known only to medical bibliophiles and doubtless not even to many of them.’ .. [Phaer’s] publications are socially conscious and purposely English, including an early translation of The Aeneid (that key text of British etiology), English legal texts, a popular translation of the French medical text entitled The Regiment of Life, and most especially his own— and England’s first— pediatrics text, The Boke of Chyldren, wherein Phaer rhetorically demands: ‘Why grutche they [Latinist physicians] phisik to come forth in Englysshe? wolde they have no man to knowe but onely they?’ Clearly, Phaer’s mission is to popularise paediatric care and inform his fellow citizens of health care issues specific to the treatment of children. English, not Latin, is the language proper to informing English parents. Phaer probably felt licensed in his critique of Latin by Sir Thomas Elyot’s defence of vernacular English a few years earlier in ‘The Castel of Helth’: “But if phisitions be angry, that I have wryten phisike in englyshe, let theym remembre that the grekes wrate in greke, the Romanes in latyne, Avicena and the other in Arabike, whiche were their owne propre and maternal tonges” Rick Bowers ‘Thomas Phaer and The Boke of Chyldren (1544)’

A very rare and important work.

ESTC S117697. STC 11974. Welcome 2878 (incomplete). Osler 3668 (incomplete). Not in Heirs of Hippocrates, Durling, or Garrison and Morton.


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