Reading with Jane Austen ~ Lost and Now Found!~ The Edinburgh “Pharmacopoeia” in the Godmersham Park Library

Our GLOSS Team is very pleased to announce a new LOST SHEEP that has been returned to the Fold! 

Pharmacopoeia Collegii Regii Medicorum Edinburgensis. [By the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh]. Edinburgi, Apud W. Sands, A. Murray, & J. Cochran. Sumptibus J. Patoni ibidem Bibliopolae. MDCCXLIV. [Fourth Edition].

A little history:

“Before the existence of the Pharmacopoeia, there were no standardised recipes or methods of producing remedies for apothecaries, and no book or manual for physicians to consult when prescribing drugs or ointments. The move towards standardising medical teaching and practice was yet to happen, and this book acted as the first chain in that process of professionalisation.” [RCPE]

The College of Physicians of London had first published their own Pharmacopoeia in 1618. The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh attempted their own such manual in 1683, but ongoing infighting between surgeons and apothecaries delayed the actual publication until 1699. And what followed is an interesting and confusing history of twelve editions with many changes, some due to advances in chemistry and medical science, some due to previous editions having sold out, and some due to infighting as to what should actually be included and how it should be listed.

The various editions remained in general use in Scotland until 1864, when it combined with the London and Dublin Pharmacopoeias in 1864 to create the British Pharmacopoeia, still in use today. But unlike most other medical writing that since around 1750 was rendered in English rather than Latin, the Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia was still published in Latin until the 11th ed of 1839. Translations were made into English and many other languages, and this added to the confusion when trying to gain an understanding of all available editions. None of the various editions stated as such, and only by studying the introductory material and the contents listings can it be determined how much revising actually took place. Fortunately David L. Cowen did all this work for the researcher in 1957 (see resources below).


Cowen lists the following editions:

First – 1699
Second – 1722
Third – 1735
Fourth – 1744
Fifth – 1756
Sixth – 1774
Seventh – 1783
Eighth – 1792
Ninth – 1803
Revised Ninth – 1805
Tenth – 1817
Eleventh (first in English) – 1839
Twelfth (second in English) – 1841


In this image of the 1st edition of 1699, notice the “device” on the title page:

1st ed. 1699 – image from the RCPE

As Cowen notes,

“in the first edition, the device was a combination of medical, national, and municipal symbols. It contained a staff and snake in a double ornamented oval frame that suggests the Badge of the Scottish Order of the Thistle. Within the ovals was the motto of the Order (and also one of the mottos in the Arms of Scotland): Nenw me impune lacesset. This was capped by a shield containing a representation of Edinburgh Castle, supported by a maiden and a hind, or unicorn, and by the enscrolled motto Nisi Dominus Frustra – all derived from the seal of the City of Edinburgh.

The second edition, and all subsequent printings that used the device, dropped the symbols of the City, and changed the staff to a triple thistle plant about the stalk of which a snake was entwined. A double circle frame, suggesting the Star of the Order of the Thistle was used, containing the same motto as before. On several printings these circles were encased in a black square with corner ornaments.” [Cowan, Part II, 342-43]

It is the 4th edition of 1744 we are most interested in, because this is the copy that was in the Godmersham Park Library. Here is the title page with the revised device that Cowen refers to:

4th ed. of 1744

It has the Montagu George Knight bookplate: [note the price of £20 – very painful! as well as the incorrect date of 1745 – someone did not know their Roman numerals…]

To give you an idea of the contents (there is no T of C in the 1744 edition), these are the main headings:

Medicamenta Simplicia which identifies botanicals, minerals and animals. Then there are the sections that tell how to prepare the remedies with these headings: Praeparationes; Destillate; Spiritus Stillatitii; Aquæ infusæ & Aceta; Tincturae; Decota; Syrupi; Melita, Gelatinæ, Succi & Succorum fæcul; Condita, Confervæ, & Sacchara; Pulvis Antiepilepticus, de Gutteta di êfus; Electuaria, Confeétiones, Anti dota, & Lohoch; Pilulæ Æthiopicæ; Trochifci; Olea per expreffionem; Balsama; Unguenta; Emplastra; Cataplasmat; and finally Medicamenta chemica. Followed by a detailed Index.

And I am sure that all made a good deal of sense… a later edition that did have a contents  page (6th ed. of 1774) reads like this:

Changes to the Pharmacopoeia were ridden with conflict – folk medicine and tradition often rivaling the learnings of science and pure reason. Cowen gives an example of the animal simples in our 4th edition of 1744 still listed under Man as: “blood, urine, fat, milk, cranium, and mummy of man.” [Pharmacopoeia, 1744, p. 24.]

You can read the entire text of this 1744 edition here (and hope your Latin is up to the task…]

Here are a few pages to give you an idea of layout and content: [click on each for full page]


When first researching this post, I thought I would make a list of all the titles in the GPL that are in Latin. In a count of the spreadsheet titles, I find 100 in Latin, and another 21 that are an English / Latin combination. So I shall not be listing those, but what is important to note is that the 1818 GPL catalogue does contain this title (and mentioned above):

Pharmacopoeia Collegii Regalis Medicorum Londinensis. By Royal College of Physicians of London. London: Apud T. Longman, T. Shewell, et J. Nourse, 1746.

And this is a LOST SHEEP!

I find another medical text, though in English, that is also a LOST SHEEP, so will add that in here as well and add these two titles to our list of LOST SHEEP:

William Lewis, ed. Medical Essays and Observations, published by A Society in Edinburgh, In Six Volumes; Abridged and disposed under General Heads, In Two Volumes. Containing Vol. I. Meteorology, Mineral Waters, Materia Medica and Pharmacy, Animal Oeconomy. Vol. II. Anatomy and Chirurgery, Essays on particular Diseases, Histories of Morbid Cases, Improvements and Discoveries in Physic. With Copper Plates. By William Lewis, M.B. F.R.S. London: Printed for C. Hitch at the Red Lion, and T. Astley at the Rose in Pater-noster Row, 1746.


In sum, the Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia is now at the Library at Chawton House, and images will soon be added to its rightful place on the Reading with Austen website. A hearty thank you to the GLOSS team for their generous donations to make this purchase possible, and now on to the next find … eyes peeled one and all for the many LOST SHEEP still waiting to be found ….


Resources for Further Reading:

British Pharmacopoeia.

Cowen, David L. “The Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia.” Medical History 1.2 (1957): 123–39. Web.

_____. “The Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia. II. Bibliography.” Medical History 1.4 (1957): 340-51. Web.

Lloyd, Rachael.“A Manual for Medicine: The Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia.”  Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh website. Web.

[With sincere thanks to Katie Childs at Chawton House for sending along the book images.]

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