SCARCE CHEMICAL PHARMACY
Discours contentant la conference de la Pharmacie Chymique.Beziers, Jean Martel, 1616.
FIRST EDITION. 8vo. 2 parts in 1, pp. , 330, , last blank. Roman letter, a little Italic. Full-page diagram with typographical border, decorated initials and ornaments. Light browning, title slightly dusty, repaired with contemporary paper, light water stain to lower blank margin, more extensive to blank portion of final leaf, one corner torn and repaired without loss in dedication. A good copy in contemporary limp vellum, a little soiled, early ms pen trials ‘Monsieur’ to lower cover and early ms shelfmark to spine.
Nicely original copy of the first edition of this scarce work on chemical pharmacy, uncommon in all early editions. In 1897, E. Bonnet, author of ‘L’imprimerie à Béziers’, listed the present among the Béziers imprints of which no copies were recorded (p.41). All that is known of the author is that he was an apothecary in Béziers. ‘Chemical pharmacy’ refers to Paracelsian, or spagyric, pharmacy, as opposed to the ‘ordinary’ pharmacy of traditional ‘materia medica’. In the preface, Pascal explains how pharmacy is a fundamental science which continues to be ill-practiced by apothecaries, who, in Béziers, mostly stocked badly prepared, corrupted remedies made ‘on the cheap’. So much so that in the city all the medicaments were seized and judged by a professor from Touolouse, who declared Pascal’s own the only one good enough to be sold. The approbation for this book came from the great medicinal professor, François Ranchin, from Montpellier. ‘Discours’ begins with an examination of alchemy and pharmacy, and their medical uses. It explores Paracelsian ideas on the preparation of medical remedies, including compounds and various processes such as fermentation. It also discusses common mistakes made in traditional pharmacy, by both physicians and apothecaries, in the making of concoctions, pills, waters and syrups, and reiterates why traditional pharmacy needs spagyric pharmacy to achieve better-quality medicaments, e.g., through the correct and sufficient pulverization of metals. Pascal draws into the squabble also the University of Montpellier, accusing its professors of not taking a stand in favour of Paracelsian pharmacy. A long section is devoted to the ‘pierre d’azur’ (lapislazuli), in relation to Cathelan’s work, and to alkermes, with an interesting discussion concerning different theories on the amount of sugar to be used in their preparation, and criticism of the low quality and uselessness of the alkermes prepared in Montpellier. Very interesting and scarce work.Only Princeton, Science History Institute and Wisconsin copies in the US. USTC 6806892; Ferguson, Bib. Chemica, II, 175; Krivatsy 8631 (later ed.); Duveen, p.459. Not in Wellcome.