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DIGBY, Kenelm (1603–1655) et al.

Theatrum sympatheticum auctum, exhibens varios authores, de pulvere sympathetico quidem: Digbæum, Straussium, Papinium, et Mohyum. De unguento verò armario: Goclenium, Robertum, Helmontium, Robertum Fluddum, Beckerum, Borellum, Bartholinum, Servium, Kircherum, Matthæum, Sennertum, Wechtlerum, Nardium, Freitagium, Conringium, Burlinum, Fracastorium, et Weckerum: præmittitur his Sylvestri Rattray, aditus ad sympathiam et anti-pathiam. Editio novissima, correctior, auctior, multisque parasangis melior.
Norimbergæ, apud Johan. Andream Endterum, & Wolfgangi junioris hæredes, 1662.

"One of the best collections of texts on the sympathetic powder" (Duveen), "An excellent collection of the writings on the powder of sympathy and the weapon salve" (Osler). The present “editio novissima”, has got a minor change in the title, the word "auctum" is an addition. It is considered to be the best Latin edition, much expanded, of this encyclopedia of the remarkable theories, beliefs and practices deriving from the doctrine of sympathetic or magnetic cures, and it reveals the great extent in which they were accepted and the gravity with which they were discussed among medical men. In addition to the treatises of Rudolph Gockel (Goclenius), Jan Baptist van Helmont and Robert Fludd, the writings of such men as Borelli, Bartholin, Sennert and Fracastoro on this subject were printed here along with those of a host of lesser writers. The editorship of this enlarged edition has been ascribed to Andreas Tentzel; but his name does not appear in the book. A list of the 24 treatises contained in this edition is given by Ferguson, Bibliotheca chemica, vol. 2, p. 441. The four works by Kenelm Digby, Laurentius Strauss, Nicolas Papin and Henri Mohy, which were contained in the original edition of the collection published by the same press in 1660, are here reprinted. Digby’s treatise, first published in French, was immedaitely translated into English, two editions being printed in London in the same year as the French edition, and many later editions, including translations into German and Dutch, have been traced by Fulton in Sir Kenelm Digby (1937). The famous Kenelm Digby is the man whose name is usually associated with the powder of sympathy. While in France, Digby lectured to an ’assembly’ at Montpellier on the ’powder of sympathy’ or ’weapon salve’, which cured wounds when applied to the weapon which had produced them. This was an older idea on whioch Nicolas Papin had written in the 16509’s. Digby claimed to have got the recipe for the powder fram a Carmelöite in Florence in 1622, who had returned from India, Persia and China. It consisted of dried green vitriol (ferrous suilphate). The powder of sympathy became in Digby’s hands the most famous universal cure of the seventeenth century. It was known as a styptic (stops bleeding), and was used directly on wounds. However, he did not use it directly on the injury, which he carefully wrapped, but on a separate bandage that had been in contact with the wound. The idea was that the powder should work sympathetically, which was explained as a form of magnetism, or atomistic or other attraction, while it was applied on the bandage, it would also heal the injury. Sometimes it actually worked, but only because none of the frequently used drugs where in contact with the wounded part, the bandages where keeping the dirt out, and the injury was allowed to cure itself. The very popular weapon salve, used by Paracelsus, was supposed to have a similar effect on the healing of gun wounds. The basic treatment was to put to the salve on the shotgun which had caused the damage, rather than on the injury itself.

Collation: Pp (8), 722, (42), with one half page engraving on p 125, title in red and black.

Binding: Contemporary vellum.

References: Rubin, D., Sir Kenelm Digby F.R. S. 1603-1665 (1991) pp 27-29, 35-36; Ferguson, Bibliotheca Chemica, 1906, I, pp 212-214; II pp 440-441; Thorndike, VII, 503-505; Partington, II, 423 ff; Duveen 574; Caillet 10599; Osler 4092-93; Gnudi & Webster, Tagliacozzi, p 293; Aitchison, W.G. 'The Powder of Sympathy’ in Annals of Medical History, VII (1925), pp 387-93. Waller 11251.

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