When Domestic medicine: or, a treatise on the prevention and cure of diseases by regimen and simple medicines; with an appendix, containing a dispensatory for the use of private practitioners, by William Buchan, was first published in 1769, it met with such success that new editions and reprints were released several times in the following years. Object #28 is a copy of the 6th edition published in 1779. It came to the Curtin Library in a collection of books purchased for the Women’s Health Collection in 1983 – the first of the special collections acquired by the Curtin Library.
Domestic Medicine was the work of Scottish physician William Buchan, 1729-1805, proponent of fresh air for children, hand washing, clean sheets and sea bathing. One of the first home medicine guides, Domestic medicine not only deals with diagnosis and treatment, but stresses disease prevention and the welfare of children at a time when, according to Buchan – “one half of the children born in Great Britain die under twelve years of age”.
Buchan had a singular purpose in publishing Domestic Medicine at a time when increasing literacy and availability of books was enabling access to knowledge for the layperson – “to render Medicine more universally useful, by extending its benefits to society”.
Domestic Medicine was reprinted and revised frequently with as many as 19 editions released in Britain for the next one hundred and forty four years until 1846. There were pirated editions, it was translated into several European languages, and the title continued to be popular in America until the last edition of 1913.
The Curtin Library copy of Domestic Medicine 6th edition has a plain leather binding with evidence of two previous owners – firstly John Brown, then James Treloar. While publications such as Domestic Medicine are not always considered ‘rare’ due to the high number of copies published over such a long period of time, in the context of Australian library collections, Domestic Medicine 6th edition has some significance. The first edition was published the year before Cook arrived on the East Coast of Australia, the 6th edition was released ten years later before the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove. Examples of many later editions may be found in Australian libraries but the 6th edition is relatively scarce.
Women’s Health Collection
The Women’s Health Collection was formed by the purchase of two separate collections of material. The first part of the collection was purchased in 1983 as a formed collection from CC Kohler Antiquarian Booksellers, and completed with a subsequent purchase in 1984, to create a combined total of more than 500 books and pamphlets. While the collection strength is material published between the world wars, there is some nineteenth century and earlier publications, including classics of medical literature. Domestic Medicine is the oldest book in the Women’s Health Collection.