Poysons are of Various and Infinite Kindes: The First English Book on Poisons

Poysons, title page

Thanasima, kai dēlētēria [in Greek]: Tractatus de venenis, or, a treatise of poysons: their sundry sorts, names, natures and virtues, with their severall symptomes, signes diagnosticks, prognosticks, and antidotes… / by William Ramesey (London: Printed by S.G. for D. Pakeman, at the Rain-bow in Fleet Street, 1661).

Written by the seventeenth-century British astrologer and physician, William Ramesey (1627–1676?), this book is likely the first English work on poisons. The text begins with a lengthy “Epistle Dedicatory” to Ramesey’s patron, Charles II, and is followed by two forewords, one aimed at a more learned audience, “To the Judicious and Ingenious Readers,” the other crafted for readers who might require a more “common” approach, “To the most Imprudent and Rurall Readers.” The author’s descriptions of the various types of poisons, include such things as “Mad-dogs bite,” “Garlick taken in excess,” the “Basilisk,” “Sea Dragons,” and insect venoms. He explains to his readers that there are no known poisons that can be programmed to kill at a specific time in the future, once administered. As the bookseller’s description accompanying this book explains, this directly refutes the then-common notion that a poison could be given which would both immediately perform the assassin’s work, but would allow ample time to establish an alibi. In 1668 Ramesey, having been admitted as an MD at Cambridge by royal mandate, became the physician-in-ordinary to Charles II. It is believed that he died in 1676 while in prison—not for poisoning, but for debt.

— Lori Dekydtspotter, Rare Books Cataloger

The call number for this book is Lilly Library RA1201 .R19 1661

See more images of this book here.

Unique illustrations in Maupassant volume

pq2349-v65_00001thumbnail1Within the pages of this first edition of Guy de Maupassant’s first novel, Une Vie (Paris: Victor Havard, 1883), the reader will discover a collection of 52 original watercolor sketches by the French artist Paul-Eugéne Mesples (1849-1924). Giving the feel of a sketch book of sorts, Mesples painted colorful vignettes that gently blend into the printed text. It was the custom of many French bibliophiles to commission artists to add such series of watercolors to works of literature, often using untrimmed copies to do so. This uniquely illustrated volume may have been a prototype for a later edition with the publisher Victor Havard, though there is no evidence that Mesples’ illustrations for Une Vie were ever published. In 1886, Mesples was commissioned to illustrate the first edition of Maupassant’s Toine (Paris: Flammarion, 1886).

Many of the illustrations feature the main character, Jeanne le Perthuis des Vauds, a woman of the provincial aristocracy. The novel recounts the events of Jeanne’s life from the age of seventeen to her mid-forties: engagement, marriage, childbirth, discovery of her husband’s infidelity, death of her parents, and the birth of her first grandchild. Mesples captures these common life moments in detailed sketches that highlight nineteenth century French provincial aristocratic dress and provide hints of interior décor.

— Lori Dekydtspotter, Rare Books Cataloger

View more images from Une Vie. The call number for this item is Lilly Library PQ2349.6 .V65 1883