London: Printed for Samuel Smith, and B. Walford, printers to the Royal Society at the Prince’s Armes in St. Paul’s Church-yard, 1696 [and] printed for J. Taylor, at the Ship in St. Paul’s Church Yard, 1694.
Duodecimo: 14.8 x 8.5 cm. I. , 96, 96-118, p. 181, 119-154 p.. With added engraved portrait. II. , 95,  p. Collations: I. A-G12, H6. II. A-E12
The first version of this book, of 50 receipts, was published as “Some receipts of medicines” in 1688 (British Library only). In 1692, the greatly-expanded second edition (100 receipts in two parts), appeared under the title “Medicinal experiments [etc.]”. This was followed by another expanded edition, now in two volumes in 1693. The third volume was printed (twice) for J. Taylor in 1694. Our copy is Fulton’s number 181, “Third Edition”, comprising the 1696 ed. of the first two volumes and the second 1694 printing of the third volume. See Fulton, “Bibl. of the Hon. Robert Boyle”, numbers 180 and 181. Fulton remarks that the third volume smacks of piracy.
Bound in contemporary English paneled calf (worn, small defects to corners, headcap loose. Internally an unusually fine, crisp and clean copy. With Boyle’s portrait bound opposite the first title page. Given the utilitarian nature of the book, it is rare to find a copy in this condition.
Toward the end of his life, in the 1680s, the experimental philosopher Robert Boyle (1627–1691) returned to a batch of medical materials which he had been writing and collecting for decades and prepared some pieces for publication. Among these papers was his vast collection of recipes, which numbered over 1,000 and indiscriminately intermingled complicated chemical and metallic processes with Galenic simples. During the last decade-and-a-half of his life Boyle selectively revised a subset of this collection for the public, beginning with 50 recipes in the limited print run of ‘Some Receipts of Medicines’ (1688), which he intended for private circulation. The final public edition of 100 recipes, ‘Medicinal Experiments’, was not published until 1692, the year after his death.
This pocket-sized duodecimo was advertised as selling for the affordable price of one shilling, and the title page of the second edition was expanded to target more explicitly his intended audience, noting that it was ‘Useful in Families, and very Serviceable to Country People’. Two more volumes with several hundred more recipes appeared in 1693 and 1694, and a supplement (11 pages) was published in the edition of 1703, but these were amalgamations of his manuscripts selected by others after his death and lacked Boyle’s thoughtful evaluation methods. When judged by the multiple number of editions, volumes, and supplements, Boyle’s ‘Medicinal Experiments’ was one of his most popular works, second only to his most popular, ‘Seraphic Love’, an early text characteristic of his moralist period.
“Boyle was the most prolific writer among the early Fellows of the Royal Society: more than 80 English editions of his works and more than 100 Latin translations were published between 1659 and 1700. Though best remembered today as the author of the ‘Sceptical Chymist’ and related works on experiment and natural philosophy, Boyle maintained a literary career that extended into diverse non-fiction genres, and his medical recipe books made a significant contribution towards sustaining his legacy among a larger audience immediately after his death…
“When Boyle finally began to work seriously towards publishing a recipe collection at the end of his life, he decided to test the recipes’ efficacy by choosing to ‘print but not publish’ a selection of these. In 1688, he printed a small collection of 50 recipes, entitled ‘Some Receipts of Medicines. For the most part Parable and Simple’, with a preface addressed to Dr. William Avery of Boston, Massachusetts. Boyle printed a small run of this book and purchased all the copies himself, noting elsewhere that he distributed copies ‘gratis; not only to physitians, & surgeons, but cheifly to divines & Ladyes, & other persons residing in the countrey that were wont out of charity to give medicins to the poore.’ Circulating and copying manuscript recipe books was still common practice throughout the seventeenth century, and here Boyle essentially used his wealth to employ the printing press as one normally would a scribe.
“Boyle offered copies of the work while insisting that recipients could copy only individual recipes (not the whole book), and that they must report back to him on the success of their trials. He notes that the edition was ‘printed but not publish’d’ to gather more feedback from this selective audience regarding ‘whether’ twere adviseable to retaine them in their privacy, or to let them appear in publick.’ The 1688 ‘Some Receipts of Medicine’ is so rare that, today, only the digital version on Early English Books Online exists, as the sole extant copy at the British Library has gone missing.
“The trials conducted by Boyle’s selective audience for ‘Some Receipts’ were apparently successful, as noted by Boyle’s publisher. As such, the recipes were reprinted shortly afterwards with no changes to ingredients or quantities in the first volume of ‘Medicinal Experiments’ (1692), an expanded recipe collection with a wider print run published the year after Boyle’s death. Though published posthumously, the manuscript had been under preparation during Boyle’s final years. His mark is evident in the preface written in his voice, which includes his thoughtful reflection on his deviation from recipe genre conventions. ‘Medicinal Experiments’ contains the original 50 recipes he had privately circulated just a few years before, along with an additional 50 recipes. The volume begins with an alphabetized ‘Table of Diseases’ with corresponding page numbers and the 100 recipes are organized into seemingly random groups of ten, which he called ‘decades.’
“Boyle included author citations in his manuscript recipe collection, but upon preparing a subset of his collection for print he eliminated their names and employed his unique ranking system, which presented information about efficacy and trials in a more sophisticated, controlled manner. In the privately circulated collection, Boyle directly acknowledged this departure from convention, asking readers to ‘Excuse my leaving unmention’d the Names of the Imparters of several of these Receipts,’ but adding that he hoped that his detailed ranking system would provide more information about efficacy than the traditional author citation system usually employed. An ‘A’ represented ‘the Mark of a Remedy of the highest Classis of these, Recommended as very considerable and efficacious in its kind.’ In ‘Some Receipts’, he had elaborated further to clarify that an ‘A’ remedy was given this mark because it ‘belongs to, hath been, either by the Affirmation of the Physician, or other Credible Persons that imparted it to me, or by Tryals that I caus’d to be made of it.’… A ‘B’ was ‘a second or inferior sort, but yet to be valuable for their good Operations.’ Finally, a ‘C’ denoted ‘those Remedies that are of the lowest Order, tho’ good enough not to be despised.’… Boyle’s three-tiered ABC system was itself a revolutionary approach that was unique to him and was not replicated by any other recipe compiler after him.”(Michelle DiMeo, “Communicating Medical Recipes: Robert Boyle’s Genre and Rhetorical Strategies for Print”, The Palgrave Handbook of Early Modern Literature and Science, p. 209-228).
I. Fulton, Boyle, 181; ESTC R1699 (Wing B3991). II. Fulton, Boyle, 181 (v.3); ESTC R1739 (Wing B3992)