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CULPEPER, Nicholas (1616–1654)

A physical directory ; or a translation of the Dispensatory made by the Colledg of Physitians of London, and by them imposed upon all the apothecaries of England to make up their medicines by. And in this third edition is added a Key to Galen’s method of physick. ... By Nich. Culpeper, gent. Student in Physick and Astrologie

London: printed by Peter Cole, at the sign of the Printing-Press in Cornhil, near the Royal Exchange, 1651
Folio: π2 A–U2 2A–2R22 2S–3K2, 110 leaves, pp. [14] 138 [4] 139–184 [18], title within a double rule border, headpieces made up of fleurons. Engraved portrait on π1v signed ‘Cross sculpsit’, advertisements on last page.
Condition: 277 x 180mm. Minor marginal tears to titlepage, some soiling, a few ink stains and some light waterstains, but still a good fresh copy.
Binding: Contemporary sheep. Joints and one corner repaired, other corners bumped. Later lettering piece.
Provenance: Robert Mosely (unidentified) with inscription on portrait: ‘Robert Mosely est verus posessor hujus Libri Octobris 18te 1660. per Joahnnem Pearse’; there is another name on the free endleaf, ‘Me. Gard Hewett’ above a horoscope, another horoscope on the verso, and a 12-line note in Latin at the foot of the penultimate page.
Third edition (first 1649, second 1650) , with a new preface and ‘A key to Galen’s method of physick’ on pp. 139–184, preceded by ‘A sinopsis of the Key of Galens method of physick.’ A translation, with additions, of the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis, 1618.
Bibliography: Wing C7542; ESTC R24898; Wellcome II, p. 414; Krivatsy 2981; Sanderson C3.

Culpeper’s unofficial English translation of the London Pharmacopoeia was a direct attack on the authority of the College of Physicians. In 1649 Culpeper’s publisher, Peter Cole, got to know that a new edition of the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis was in preparation and rushed through the English translation to get it in print the year before the official Latin edition came out in 1650. Through the publication of an official pharmacopoeia, the College of Physicians sought to control and regulate the practice of the apothecaries, who had to use it in making up prescriptions for the licensed physicians. But it ‘became, in the hands of its translator, a medium for the liberalisation of medicine’ (Charles Webster, The Great Instauration, p. 253). By publishing in English, Culpeper not only made the prescriptions available to non-professional, non-Latinate readers, but also made the official use much safer because many of the apothecaries themselves did not read Latin. Culpeper also considerably improved on the original. He clarified the preparations – with abusive interjections attacking the College for its errors – and added much additional material which formed the basis for his English physician (1652), otherwise known as ‘Culpeper’s Herbal’, the most popular of all English herbals.
Nicholas Culpeper has only relatively recently been re-habilitated from ‘vituperative quack’ and founder of the modern cult of herbalism to ‘a figure of outstanding importance [who] had a far greater influence on medical practice in England between 1650 and 1750 than either Harvey or Sydenham’ (Poynter pp. 152–3).
This copy has an early owner's astrological chart and a long note, also astrological, interestingly enough in Latin and so reminding us of the intellectual milieu in which the book was published.
Literature: F. N. L. Poynter, ‘Nicholas Culpeper and His Books’, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 17 (1962 152–167); Jonathan Sanderson, Nicholas Culpeper and the Book Trade: Print and the Promotion of Vernacular Medical Knowledge, 1649–65, (PhD thesis, University of Leeds, 1999); Benjamin Woolley, The Herbalist: Nicholas Culpeper and the Fight for Medical Freedom (London, 2004).
Keywords:     pharmacology    herbal