Coles, William


The Art of Simpling: An Introduction to the Knowledge and Gathering of Plants: Wherein the Definitions [sic], Divisions, Places, Descriptions, Differences, Names, Vertues, Times of Flourishing and Gathering, Uses, Temperatures, Signatures and Appropriations of Plants, are Methodically Laid Down: Whereunto is Added, A Discovery of the Lesser World.

Milford, Conn.: Herb Lovers Book Club, 1938. "Reprinted for the first time since the original edition. . .from the copy owned by Mrs. Rosetta E. Clarkson. . .1938. With notes on the author and his work"-- t.p. verso. Originally published; London: Printed by J. G. for Nath. Brook, 1657.

The 1657 issue, here reproduced, lacks the dedication to Elias Ashmole that appeared in the first and second issues (1656) but is otherwise made up of sheets and cancels from the second issue.--Cf. Hunt 266. Reprint does not include Perspicillum microcosmologicum, or, A Prospective for the Discovery of the Lesser World, referred to on the facsimile t.p. as A Discovery of the Lesser World.

This small medical botany book includes a chapter on the doctrine of signatures. This doctrine believed that a plant's characteristics indicated what it could cure; e.g., Adders Tongue looks like the snake's tongue and is therefore good for the bite of an adder or "other venomous creature." However, not all plants have signatures.  This does not mean that they are not suitable for medicinal uses.  Rather, it requires more study to determine which plants are of value.  Coles adds that "Man was not brought into the world, to live like an idle Loyterer or Truant, but to exercise his minde in those things, which are therefore in some measure obscure and intricate, yet not so much as otherwise they would have been, it being easier to adde then invent at first" (96).  This particular edition is a reprint, set in modern type but maintaining the author's spelling and punctuation, of PAT-23, set without the text on the Discovery of the Lesser World.

Subjects: Botany; Medicine.


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