Langham.   William     - The 1633 edition.
CONTAINING THE sundry rare and hidden vertues and properties of all kindes of Simples and Plants. Together with the manner they are to bee vsed and applyed in medicine for the health of mans body, against diuers diseases and infirmities most common amongst men. Gathered by the long experience and industry onf WILLIAM LANGHAM. Practitioner in Physicke. The second Edition corrected and amended. LONDON, Printed by THOMAS HARPER, with permission of the Company of Stationers. M.DC.XXXIII.
4to. 198 x 148mm. 1fep with flowing script - George King senior and Thomas King junior 1703. Title page. [1] 2 pages To the Reader. 4 pages Table of Simples. (1)2-702. 66 pages of A Table. 2feps with George King in script dated 1653, and George Thrift 1709. The dense text printed mainly in gothic type and 'indices' at the end of the chapters in roman type.Text block nice and tight and uniformly age browned but all clearly legible. Original dark brown leather on boards with a skillfully relaid spine with raised bands and gilt lettering. Has a nice patina. The inside cover paste-downs not placed showing original boards and leather edging.
- William Langham's ‘Book of Health’ is a concise medicinal herbal with many recipes interwoven into the text. Langham devotes a chapter to each plant, describing its parts and their uses. To every item of information he added a number, and at the end of the chapter there is a table of conditions relating to the numbers in the text. For instance under Fennel, one of the longest entries there are 132 items of information, ranging from ‘Adder biting’ to ‘Yard ache’. Included is a discussion of almonds, anis, apples, artichokes, barley, basil, beans, beets, bread, butter, capers, cardamom, carrots, caraway, chestnuts, cinnamon, citrons, cloves, cockles, coriander, crab, cress, cucumber, currants; that’s just a selection taken from the A-Cs. With two general indexes, one consisting of a list of 421 simples. The other index is the converse of the lists at the end of individual plants, as it indicates the ills and diseases that can be helped by the use of the many different plants. For example, forty-eight plants were indexed under consumption and eighty-eight under colic, whilst 'lust to abate' merited twenty, with thirty-five to cause it. The table repeatedly lists 10,000 plants that can be used for more than 1,150 conditions and functions. Langham includes some American plants that had only recently reached Europe. He was not the first to use this system. Henry Lyte’s English translation of Dodoen’s famous herbal ‘The New Herbal’ of 1578, [see item 11078 on this site] has four separate indexes; one for classic Latin names of plants; one for apothecaries, the Arabs and modern herbalists; one for the English names; and the fourth a subject index of what plants could do. While the title must have been influenced by the 'Gart der Gesundheit' published by Johann Wonnecke of Kaub in 1485, or the '[H]Ortus Sanitatis', published by Jacob Meydenbach in Mainz Germany on 23 June 1491, the text is quite independent. Langham's very rare text is absorbing and interesting, and when checked against known modern remedies it is amazing how many are similar. Every page has nuggets of information that seem to transcend time. The first edition was published in London, 1579. In the exhibition catalogue "Four Hundred Years of English Diet and Cookery" at the Bancroft Library, it is noted that "This may be the first use of cross-referencing." Like the Lilly Library, the Bancroft has the second edition only.

click on image to enlarge

Antiquarian category
ref number: 11197