English Herbs

by Ziwei Qu on October 20, 2016 - 8:14pm

The English Physician Enlarged with 369 Medicine Made of English Herbs  is written a gentleman by the name of Nicholas Culpepper who was a student of physics. The publication date indicates 1794, however it is mostly likely that this is a reprint and not it’s original edition as the author died over a century earlier in 1654. The book is quite small with the detentions of 17x11x3 and only weights about 300g, it has no particular smell. The Cover of the book seem to be wrapped in cheap leather and the spine of the book is bind with white thread, the font used in the text is similar to that of Times New Roman. 

The users of the book are mot likely local doctors, local herbalists and commoners, the text is written in the vernacular: English and there is no hand written notes in the margins. The book seems be to  very worn out and battered, which indicates that it was probably frequently used. There are no illustrations in the book, only flan text. Seeing that it is an “enlarged” version  additional information were probably added in, though no other authors name appears on the book. 


The English Physician Enlarged with 369 Medicine Made of English Herbs is as the name suggests a book compiled with different function and usages of herbs. All the herbs are listed in alphabetical orders and every herb in supply associated with a plant. 


Taking into consideration that the copy observed at the Oslers is a reprinted edition and the original was most like published in the 1600s, meaning that the book was most likely originally published around the time of the paradigm shift in medicine. This shift can be observed in Andreas Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica published in 1543 and  William Harvey’s De motu cordis et sanguinis published in 1628. 


As the publication dates in indicates 1794, a date that is considerably late for this type of tells us this book was probably published in a nostalgic way in regards towards early modern medicine. Following the paradigm shift, these type of recipe-book-like medical books are regarded maybe not with as much medical value and people seemed to still want it and still long to have it. 


Though the commoners might still have personal attachments and feel nostalgic about early modern folk medicine, this was the type of medicine the high elite physicians feared about (Cook 421). They were considered as the unlearned, and the “learned physicians often objected strenuously to [their] practices”(Cook419). 


In looking at the content of The English Physician Enlarged with 369 Medicine Made of English Herbs there is a sense that the human body is one with the nature. It is linked to plants and astrology, this form of medicine seem to observe and analysis the human body in a holistic manner. Whereas on the contrary, modern medicine of today seem to focus on a part of the body as if it is separated from the whole. 


To conclude, The English Physician Enlarged with 369 Medicine Made of English Herbs was probably originally published around the time of the paradise shift and it was preprinted in a nostalgic manner. It presents remedies and ways of healing the the elite doctors absolutely  disapproved and rejected. 



Work cited:

Cook, Harold J.  “Medicine,” in Katherine Park and Lorraine Daston (eds.) The Cambridge History of Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003): 407-434. 345-101-MQ Early Modern Knowledge, edited by Sarah Waurechen, Eastman Systems, 2016, pp. 47-61.

Culpeper, Nicholas. The English Physician Enlarged with Three Hundred and Sixty-Nine Medicines, 1794. 


Nicholas Culpeper (1616-54), Retrieved from < http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/people/nicholasculpeper >


Word count: 634