New York: Published by Samuel Henry; [Printed by E. Low], 1814.
Octavo (21 x 13 cm.), vi, , 10-393 pages (with page iv misprinted as page v). Illustrations (seven in color). "Index" is actually a table of contents (its alphabetic order approximate). List of subscribers ("Catalogue," pages -393). Issued with the illustrations either colored or plain. The seven colored illustrations found here are the work of a later contributor. ~ Evident FIRST EDITION of just the second herbal produced and printed in the United States, following Stearn's The American Herbal (Walpole, 1801). A botanical herbal of dubious pedigree, by an author otherwise unknown to history; revealed shortly after its publication as the work of, at best, an unscrupulous amateur but, more likely, of a charlatan and plagiarist. Approximately one hundred fifty descriptions with preparations and administration regimes, followed by an "Appendix [...] containing many choice medical secrets" with fifty-six additional cures. External authority is acknowledged on occasion (there is an isolated reference to Chamber's Universal Medical Dictionary on page 208, and to communications from the Medical Society of London on page 283), but the principal claim to foundational knowledge is that from first-person experience ("I have found that [...]" or "I can recommend"). Some experiments, as might be expected, document his own reactions, as in the case of Zanthoxylum (prickly ash): "Having procured some of the roots and expressed the juice, I began the experience of its qualities upon myself, at tea-spoonful doses. From the first dose I found no other effect, than an unusual flow of spirits [evidently, a feeling of invigoration]; but by continuing the dose, drowsiness, nausea, head-ache, and at length sleep ensued, from which, however, I awoke next morning perfectly refreshed, and had three copious emotions [i.e., evacuations] downwards" (page 286). In another first-person account, Henry dilates on his own success in deploying Ar[c]tium lappa (burdock) as a cure "for the benefit" of seamen (one infers, that is, seamen suffering from syphilis): "I shall reveal my celebrated anti-venereal remedy," he proclaims, "by the use of which I have cured numbers both in its recent and fourth stage, without the use of mercury." The concoction can be carried out to sea, so long as it is stored in black bottles, and in warm weather taken with "a gill of gin" (pages 63-64). The birth and death dates for the author (1769-1843) supplied by John Haller (Kindly Medicine: Physio-Medicalism in America, 1836-1911 [Kent: Kent State University Press, 1997], page 29) have not been confirmed, and must be held provisionally as a transcription error (they are, rather, the relevant dates for another herbalist, Samuel Thomson). A starting point for investigation might be the Samuel Henry (ca. 1767-1830) of Cattaraugus County in western New York, but the possibility must also be entertained that the name may be partial or spurious. A brief account on the title page effectively places the author "at the close of the last war" (1813-14) among the Creeks (Muscogee) somewhere along the Gulf Coast of Alabama. Thereafter, Henry summarizes, he traveled "through the Southern States, whilst making botanic discoveries on the real medical virtues of our indigenous plants." The surname Henry was indeed common in the American South, but a residence there would need to be reconcilable with another claim on the title page, namely, that the author was a member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons and of the Medical Society of New York, and with the related claim, on page , that he maintained a shop at No. 6 Peck-Slip there (today not far from the Brooklyn Bridge). ~ The earliest excoriation of A New and Complete American Medical Family Herbal seems to have been that provided by the editors of The American Medical and Philosophical Register published (if the membership claim on the title page can be substantiated) by the author's own colleagues in New York (volume 4 , pages 597-601). They begin their review sympathetically enough, allowing that while images and botanical information may have been pilfered, some of their applications of plant derivatives appeared to be predicated on original experience. But before long they descend to caustic ridicule, first over several specious foreign words (juvansia and ledensia, in remedy no. IX) whose derivation, they taunt, might be Creek, and then regarding treatments that require application of oil from a beaver's tail and the urine of a polecat (remedy no. XIV). "But badinage aside," they conclude. Seriously do we regret the appearance of the present performance. A more gross imposition upon the community, than is exhibited in the publication before us, has not come within our knowledge" (page 601). Although it can be inferred from testimonials printed by Henry on page [vii] – by the well-known physician Samuel Latham Mitchell (recte Mitchill), for instance, and by the founder of Thomsonian Medicine himself (whose name is also misspelled, as Thompson) – that some of the book's reception was favorable, later notices emphasized censure. The editors of The Analectic Magazine and Naval Chronicle published in Philadelphia (7 , pages 248-264) suspected his "nostrums and specifics" to be "of doubtful authority" (page 250) and chafed not only at the theft of descriptions and woodcuts from the Medical Botany of William Woodville (second edition, London: Phillips & Yard, 1810), but also at the demonstrably false claim that the plants Henry described were indigenous to the Americas. The warning was intercepted abroad, as per the editors' intent, if the capsule reviews of the Medicinisch-chirurgische Zeitung published in Salzburg (1 , page 343) can be taken as representative. ~ The "Lewis' secret remedy" of the title is a reference to one Daniel Lewis of North Castle, New York, who had been bitten by a "mad dog" in 1783. He sought the services of a physician in New Jersey, Lawrence Van DerVeer (1740-1815), who administered a powder made from a perennial herb called skullcap (probably Scutellaria lateriafolia but identified in some accounts as Scutellaria galericulata), a treatment that he used successfully to cure hydrophobia (rabies). Lewis recovered and returned to New York with the formula, acquainted only his son with the "secret," but dispensed the powder locally. By Henry's time, however, neither the substance nor the narrative remained hidden from the public, having been revealed more than once, most prominently in James Thacher's The American New Dispensatory (Boston: Wait & Co., 1810), pages 205-208. The name of the printer, Esther Prentiss Low (1762-1816), is taken from the bibliographic record for the copy of the American Medical Family Herbal held by the American Antiquarian Society. The Low family had acquired a considerable profile as publishers of The New and Complete American Encyclopædia (1805-1811), a seven-volume work to which Thomas Jefferson is known to have subscribed, and its association with the herbal corroborates the author's connection with New York, if any is needed. ~ The present exemplar was owned by the American portrait artist and gentleman farmer Theodore Victor Peticolas (1797?-1866?), a native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania whose formative years were spent in Richmond, Virginia. His signature on the front free endpaper places him in Richmond in January 1820, shortly before his departure for parts west. He settled eventually in southern Ohio, where his expertise as a fruit and vegetable farmer was given expression in horticultural periodicals. ~ Some light foxing throughout. Leading edge of first preliminary, containing the Peticlos signature is a bit edge-worn, likely the result of an overhang of the text block by this untrimmed leaf (we thank the binder for not trimming this leaf!). In later, gilt-titled green calf, a somewhat homely, but functional library binding. Unusual for this title, the Appendix, Index, and List of Subscribers are all present. Many of the recorded copies are lacking one or more of these sections, or have found misbound with signatures lacking or out of order. Rare. We find only three auction records in the last one hundred years. [OCLC locates nine copies; Sabin 31412; Shaw & Shoemaker 31692; Austin, R.B. Early American Medical Imprints 902].