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ARBUTHNOT, John (1667–1735)

Tables of ancient coins , weights and measures, explain'd and exemplify'd in several dissertations

London: printed for J. Tonson, 1727
4to: A4 *A2 B–2T4, 170 leaves, pp. [12] 327 [1] (last page blank), 6-line errata slip pasted to p. 327. Title printed in red and black, wood or metal-cut decorations and initials.
18 engraved plates: numbered 1–18 (bound at the end, the last double page).
Condition: 289 x 229mm. Worming in lower margins of text leaves, otherwise a fine fresh copy.
Binding: Contemporary calf, gilt filet and blind ruled borders, gilt spine, red morocco lettering piece, marbled endleaves, red sprinkled edges. Spine slightly rubbed and with a small chip in the headband.
Provenance: Earls of Portsmouth with engraved bookplate of the second Earl (Franks F.30719).
First edition, though the tables themselves were first published in 1707.
Bibliography: ESTC t96634 and n65572; Goldsmiths'–Kress 6495; Wellcome II, p. 52.

This finely printed quarto is a standard work on Greek, Roman, Jewish and Arabic coins, weights and measures and commerce, including the prices of goods and services and rates of pay. There is also a dissertation on ‘the Navigation of the Ancients’, and an important final section on ancient medicine. This includes the doses given by ancient physicians, and the prescriptions and practice of Celsus, Scribonius Largus, Marcellus, Ruffus Ephesius, Paulus Aegineta and Areteus.
Arbuthnot took his MD at St Andrew's in 1796; he was elected FRS in 1704 and admitted to the Royal College of Physicians in 1710. A friend of Swift, who called him the ‘queen's favourite physician,’ he was close to the leading statesmen of the Harley administration and was the author of the Art of Political Lying ‘one of the best specimens of the ironical wit of the time’ (DNB). He published the first work in English on probability, Of the laws of chance (1692), a translation and expansion of Huygens’ work.
There is a dedicatory poem to the King by the author's son Charles, a student at Christ Church, Oxford, for whose benefit the work was published.