BARROUGH, Philip. The Method of Physick

London, Richard Field, 1624


4to, pp. (16) 477 (vii). Roman and italic letter, printer’s device to t-p, woodcut floriated initials, ornate headpieces. Light browning, waterstain to lower outer corner of first gathering and to upper half of a few ll., occasional light soiling mostly marginal, minor chipping to fore-edge of t-p. A good copy in contemporary calf, covers double blind ruled, outer corners worn, one repaired. Rebacked, part of original spine laid down. “CS Alger (?) 1840”, “Warren 1666” and C19 stamp “Library of J.H. Hunt, M.D. Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, L.I.” (Joseph H. Hunt was president of the Medical Society of the County of Kings 1898-99) all to ffep, stamp of the medical society library to t-p (with ms. “23584”), to A2 recto and Ii2 verso, partly trimmed C17 autograph “Robert Marryott Cost 169…” and price indication “prt 4s 6d” (4 shillings and 6 pence) to fly, c.1800 “Ex libris Abraham Bull” to t-p, C17 “ex libris Tho. Warren” to rep.

A good copy of the first English-language textbook of medicine. First published in 1583, this most influential and widely read work went through seven editions before 1652 (this is the sixth). The printer, Richard Field (1561-1624), born in Stratford-upon-Avon, was a childhood friend of Shakespeare and publisher of the earliest editions of a few of his non-dramatic poems. Through Field, Shakespeare had access to cutting-edge scientific works and ideas: in various instances, Shakespeare’s medical language echoes Barrough. For example, the term “frenzy” – used by the poet to describe Lady Constance’s state of madness in his ‘King John’ – is used by Barrough (spelled ‘frensie’) here, in the first description of delirium in English literature.


Philip Barrough (fl. 1590) was an Elizabethan physician active in London. In 1559 and 1572, he received his licences to practice surgery and medicine from the University of Cambridge. “The Method of Physick” is a comprehensive medical manual summarising the overall knowledge of medicine at the time, containing descriptions and treatments of diseases from the head downwards. Following Galen, Barrough often locate their causes in humoral imbalance, which can be restored with appropriate therapies and a correct diet. The first book deals with illnesses affecting the head, ears, nose, eyes and mouth (e.g. headache, memory loss, cataract, deafness and toothache); this section contains the first significant exposition on neurological disorders in English. The second book is concerned with the chest (e.g. cough, asthma, “spitting of bloud”), the third with the abdomen (e.g. stomach ache, stones, worms, “a doglike appetite”), the fourth with fevers (including the plague), the fifth with tumors, the sixth is entirely dedicated to syphilis (“grievous sicknesse, was brought into Spain by Columbus at his coming home”), the seventh and eight to the preparation of remedies (e.g. syrups, powders, pills, baths etc.).

The ex libris “Warren 1666” and “Tho. Warren” (likely ‘Thomas’) on this copy might belong to the same person. ‘Warren’, of Norman origins, was common surname in England at the time, and it is difficult to identify these autographs with certainty. Interestingly, however, Thomas Warren, apothecary of London, was appointed by the University of Cambridge to receive contribution for “the relief of the Poor of the place much visited with sickness” in 1666 (Cooper, Annals of Cambridge, v. III, p. 520).

USTC 3011272; ISTC S101229; STC 1514; Wellcome I, 686; Krivatsy 725. Not in garrison Morton, Heirs of Hippocrates, Brunet or Graesse.