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Choose your poison?

Pharmacopœia Bateana, or, Bate's Dispensatory, by George Bate. Printed in London for S. Smith and B. Walford, at the Prince's Arms, in St. Paul's Church-yard, 1694. Lower Library, K.36.11

George Bate [pseud. Theoderus Veridicus], is best known for his published defence of Charles I in his confrontation with parliament, The Regall Apology, or, The Declaration of the Commons. His Pharmacopœia was compiled and edited from a collection of his prescriptions by Bate’s apothecary, Jack Shipton, and published posthumously in Latin in 1688. This edition is an English translation of William Salmon’s second edition of 1691, which was dedicated to William III. It is a collection of remedies and includes the recipes for making them up, including some recipes of Jonathan Goddard in the appendix “Arcana Goddardiana”. Bates had become court physician, treating Charles I at his court in Oxford and, in 1653, became chief physician to Oliver Cromwell. There were rumours that he may have seen off Cromwell with one of his remedies, but he managed to evade the charge by detailing Cromwell’s fatal illness, and by giving out the results of his autopsy. In addition he was one of five doctors attending Cromwell at his death (another being the aforementioned J. Goddard). He became first physician with the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

The contents of the volume are in two parts. The first deals with internal remedies, the second with external compounds. There is also a guide to the chemical and medicinal symbols used in the text. Only one illustration accompanies this edition. This is an engraving of a chamber designed for heating antimony, an element often used in powdered form in medicines and cosmetics. The ingredients for these remedies were usually dissolved in ale, wine or water, presumably to take away the appalling taste that must have accompanied many of them. How would you otherwise manage to ingest gently dried raven? The latter is the main ingredient in a cure for epilepsy (see p. 456, Corvus epilepticus), which rejoices in the heading ‘The Antiepileptik Crow’ … A number of the recipes contained within these pages include ingredients designed to purge the system, and delight in names such as ‘Vomiting vitriol’ (p. 492) and ‘Thundering mars’ (p. 498). A recipe for vomiting tincture can be found on p. 201, extracted from antimony with spirit of vinegar. If scurvy is your problem look to p. 743. The remedy for scurvy sounds relatively palatable including sarsaparilla, sage and cloves; until you are instructed to place them in a bag with 5 gallons of new ale, “with bits of old iron in the bottom of it”.

The Library holds one earlier and two later editions of the Pharmacopoeia in Latin. Only this 1694 edition and the later editions (published in 1691 and 1700) contain Goddard’s “Arcana”. Goddard left no will when he died and his books passed to his nephew, along with a sum of money. This nephew was, incidentally, a scholar at Caius College.