BRUEL, Walter.


BRUEL, Walter. Praxis Medicinae or The Physicians Practice.

London, printed by John Norton, 1632.


FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH. Small 4to. pp. [8], 407, [5]. Roman letter, little Italic. Decorated initials and ornaments. Slight age browning, upper edge trimmed a little, occasionally just touching printed border, small flaw to Bb4 verso without loss, long tear to lower outer corner of Ddd3 affecting couple of lines, two little holes to outer blank margin of last. A good copy in contemporary English calf, rebacked, eps renewed, covers scuffed, armorial bookplate and stamp (‘withdrawn’) of Royal College of Physicians of London to pastedown, earlier RCP red ink stamp to title, contemporary ms shelfmark inset on original pastedown, C20 label of Gordon W. James MD, Virginia, to fly.

A good copy of the first edition in English of this popular medical compendium by the Belgian physician Walter Bruel (fl. 1580s), frequently quoted by Burton in his ‘Anatomy of Melancholy’. This copy was formerly in the library of one of the most important medical institutions worldwide – the Royal College of Physicians in London, established in 1518. The work is concerned with dozens of illnesses, head to foot, and was intended for the use of physicians, surgeons, and apothecaries as well as lay practitioners. Each section is devoted to the nature, symptoms and diagnosis of a specific condition, providing suggestions for remedies and surgical procedures (especially bloodletting). For instance, melancholy is described as arising from the black choler humour, which ‘so disturbs the seat of the mind, that [the sick] speak and do things repugnant to reason, and that with fear and sadness’, causing ‘evil thoughts without a manifest cause’. Sections are also devoted to nightmares, epilepsy, madness (‘an inclination of melancholy of great fierceness and alienation’), eye inflammation, deafness, hiccup, spleen tumours, jaundice, gout, syphilis, women’s illnesses and the plague (‘sometimes caused by the influence of the stars’). Since Bruel thought, like others, that the putrefaction of air could cause the plague, he advised to use sweet perfumes to improve air quality every day. The final leaf lists the units of measurement employed in the book, and their symbols, so that ‘every one may know how to compound these medicines’, without help. An influential medical work in early modern England.

ESTC S105941; STC (2nd ed.) 3929; Krivatsy 1861. Not in Wellcome, Osler or Heirs of Hippocrates.
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