[MEDICINE]. Pharmacopoea Collegii Regii Medicorum Edimburgensium.

Edinburgh, Andrew Anderson, 1699.


FIRST EDITION. 16mo. pp. [12], engraved title inserted after A2, 208, [22], first blank except signature, last blank. Engraved title with device of Royal College of Phyisicians, Edinburgh. Slight toning. An excellent, clean copy in contemporary blue-black Scottish (likely Edinburgh) goatskin, double gilt ruled to a panel design, gilt-stamped leaves to corners, raised bands, spine gilt ruled, with gilt-stamped dots and fleurons to compartments, marbled eps, a.e.g. Engraved bookplate of Patrick Hume, Earl of Marchmont, 1702 to front pastedown, contemporary ms shelfmarks to A1-2, contemporary ms presentation note from the College of Physicians to the Lord Chancellor to A3 verso.

An unsophisticated copy, in contemporary Scottish binding, of the very scarce first edition of the first pharmacopoeia issued by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, which took 18 years to produce and continued to 1814. ‘It had to be simple, clear, brief and accurate. It soon proved its usefulness to all, by meeting the needs of both pharmacists and physicians. It was a great enterprise which spanned 150 years and gave international fame and prestige to the College in its day’ (RCPE). Apparently recorded in three copies only, and unmentioned in major medical bibliographies. This is a presentation copy to Patrick Hume, 1st Earl of Marchmont, then Lord Chancellor of Scotland, from the President of the College, Dr Matthew Sinclair. Hume kept it in his library, adding his bookplate after 1702. Hume had returned with William III, after the unsuccessful expedition of 1685, and continued to oppose the Old Pretender, eventually supporting the union of England and Scotland.

Established by royal charter in 1681, the College of Physicians at Edinburgh sought to protect and enhance medical practice based on reputable sources, techniques and remedies, as well as to assist the sick and poor with the free distribution of medicines, which began in 1682. ‘Pharmacopoea’ was the College’s official reference publication, intended for the use of its members, providing an authorised list of approved medicaments produced in their dispensatory. ‘The Pharmacopoeia was top priority because all petitions for a Charter had highlighted the chaotic situation in the preparation and prescription of drugs and medicaments, conditions still prevalent in Scotland at the time. England was in a better situation due to its own Pharmacopoeia [of] 1618. […] Only in 1699 was a text produced that met with the approval of the College. This was made possible by suspending the Fellowships of the ‘moderns’, i.e. Pitcairn and Stevenson. Thus the First Edition perpetuated some primitive remedies, such as dog’s dung and the skull of a murdered man’ (RCPE). It begins with observations on weights and measurements, and a list of ‘simples’, i.e., herbs used for medicaments, divided into roots, gums, etc. There follow recipes for therapeutic waters, decoctions, syrups, sugars, powders, remedies (‘antidoti’, e.g., ‘confectio alkermes’, others with guaiacum for syphilis), opioids, pills, oils, balms and ointments. A separate section, called ‘chymica’, explains the chemical procedures for the preparation of remedies, such as salts, from minerals, including vitriol, mercury, antimony, as well as tinctures (drugs containing wine) and tartars (saline substances). That this work was intended for the use of experienced physicians is clear from the fact that, unlike popular medical works for the wider public, the ‘Pharmacopoea’ does not specify the ailments for which each preparation was intended. The focus is instead on detailed recipes and procedures.

 The gilt-stamped leaf tool on the covers much resembles one found on a Scottish binding at the NLS (Ry.II.c.37), produced c.1727.

Only Yale, RCPE and Oxford copies recorded. Unrecorded in major medical bibliographies. https://digital.nls.uk/bookbinding/1600-20.html; https://www.rcpe.ac.uk/heritage/manual-medicine-edinburgh-pharmacopoeia
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