The following books are all interesting English folios from my current stock.

333J Grew

333J Nehemia Grew

Cosmologia sacra: or a discourse of the universe as it is the creature and kingdom of God. Chiefly written, to demonstrate the truth and Excellency of the Bible; which contains the Laws of his Kingdom in this Lower World. In five books. By Dr. Nehemiah Grew, Fellow of the College of Physicians, and of the Royal Society. 

London: Printed for W. Rogers, S. Smith, and B. Walford: at the Sun against St. Dunstan’s church in Fleetstreet; and at the Prince’s Arms in St. Paul’s church-yard, 1701.  $2,600

Folio, 12 x 8 inches  π3, B2, A2,(a)-(e)8,A-Z2, Aa-Zz2,Aaa-Zzz2,Aaaa-Zzzzz, Aaaaa2,Bbbbb1

This copy is bound in its original full calf, it is a nice copy.

This is Grew’s last work was published in 1701. I. The argument is specially directed against Spinoza, the nature of God being deduced à priori and à posteriori, from the necessity of His being and from His handiwork.  As in Ray’s ‘Wisdom of God in Creation,’ and other similar works, the argument à posteriori begins with much borrowed astronomical learning; but in a funeral sermon on the author we are assured, not only that he was ‘acquainted with the theories of the Heavenly Bodies, skill’d in Mechanicks and Mathematicks, the Proportions of Lines and Numbers, and the Composition and Mixture of Bodies, particularly of the Human Body,’ but also that he was ‘well acquainted with the whole Body of Divinity,’ and had studied Hebrew to more proficiency than most divines, so as to read the scriptures in the original. 

“The greater part of this is in the ordinary style of apologetics, or a treatise upon the evidences of Christianity; and, so far as this part is concerned, the title, Sacred Cosmology, has no pertinence. But it also contains design-arguments, and a singular theory of a “vital principle” in matter generally, aside from vegetative and animal life,—a sort of hylozoism, or world-soul theory. So far it is cosmological, or treats of the cosmos.”” A Critique of Design-arguments: A Historical Review and Free Examination of the Methods of Reasoning in Natural Theology.  Lewis Ezra Hicks: Charles Scribner, 1883

825G Hale

825G Matthew Hale

The Primitive Origin of Mankind considered and examined according to the light of nature.

London: William Godbid for William Shrowsbery, 1677           $ 2,800

Folio 12 1/2 X 7 3/4  inches a-4,b2,B-Z4, Aa-Zz4, Aaa-Bbb4,Ccc2. First edition.

This copy is bound in full later calf. This copy has the book plate of Desmond Morris author of DSC_0043the book The naked ape and numerous  TV shows on Sociobiology and Evolution.


“The problem of human origins, of how and when the first humans appeared in the world, has been addressed in a DSC_0042variety of ways in western thought. In the 17th century the predominant explanation for the origin of the world and the beings that inhabit it, especially human beings, was based on the biblical account of creation. It was almost universally accepted that humans had been created by a supernatural agent using supernatural means. But alternative explanations for the production of the first humans did exist, according to which the first humans were produced by nature through some form of spontaneous generation” (Matthew R. Goodrum).

The word evolution (from the Latin evolution, meaning “to unroll like a scroll”) appeared in English in the 17th century, referring to an orderly sequence of events, particularly one in which the outcome was somehow contained within it from the start. Notably, in 1677 Sir Matthew Hale, attacking the atheistic atomism of Democritus and Epicurus, used the term evolution to describe his opponent’s ideas that vibrations and collisions of atoms in the void — without divine intervention — had formed “Primordial Seeds” (semina) which were the “immediate, primitive, productive Principles of Men, Animals, Birds and Fishes.”[ Goodrum] For Hale, this mechanism was “absurd”, because “it must have potentially at least the whole Systeme of Humane Nature, or at least that Ideal Principle or Configuration thereof, in the evolution whereof the complement and formation of the Humane Nature must consist … and all this drawn from a fortuitous coalition of senseless and dead Atoms.”[ Goodrum]

DSC_0037 (3)While Hale (ironically) first used the term evolution in arguing against the exact mechanistic view the word would come to symbolize, he also demonstrates that at least some evolutionist theories explored between 1650 and 1800 postulated that the universe, including life on earth, had developed mechanically, entirely without divine guidance. Around this time, the mechanical philosophy of Descartes, reinforced by the physics of Galileo and Newton, began to encourage the machine-like view of the universe which would come to characterise the scientific revolution.[Bowler ] However, most contemporary theories of evolution, including those developed by the German idealist philosophers Schelling and Hegel (and mocked by Schopenhauer), held that evolution was a fundamentally spiritual process, with the entire course of natural and human evolution being “a self-disclosing revelation of the Absolute”.[Schelling]

In response to Isaac de la Peyrere‘s theory of polygenesis, Hale advanced his own theory that the earth was not eternal, but rather had a spontaneous “beginning,” and went on to defend “the Mosaic account of the single origin of all peoples” (Norman). He further believed “that in animals, especially insects, various natural calamities reduce the numbers to low levels intermittently, so maintaining the balance of nature” (Garrison & Morton). Hale anticipated Malthus in studying the growth of a population from a single family, and “seems to have been the first to use the expression ‘geometrical proportion” in respect to population (Hutchinson). Primitive Origination was written as the first part of a larger manuscript entitled Concerning Religion, the whole of which “was submitted to Bishop Wilkins, who showed it to Tillotson. Both advised condensation, for which Hale never found leisure” (DNB). This first part, called “Concerning the Secondary Origination of Mankind,” was published after his death as The Primitive Origination of Mankind. A lawyer by trade, Hale distinguished himself after the fire of London in 1666 by deciding many cases of owner and tennant dispute, and helped facilitate the rebuilding of the city. He also publically demonstrated his belief in witches when as a judge he condemned more than one suspected witch to death.

Wing H-258 ;Norman 965 ;Garrison & Morton 215; Lowndes, 973.

Goodrum, Matthew R. (April 2002). “Atomism, Atheism, and the Spontaneous Generation of Human Beings: The Debate over a Natural Origin of the First Humans in Seventeenth-Century Britain”. Journal of the History of Ideas 63 (2): 207–224

Bowler, Peter J. (2003). Evolution:The History of an Idea. University of California Press. Schelling, System of Transcendental Idealism, 1800.  Brian Regal Human Evolution: A Guide to the Debates, 2004


992G Browne

992G John Browne 1642-1700?

Myographia nova: or, a graphical description of all the muscles in the humane body, as they arise in dissection: distributed into six lectures. At the entrance into which, are demonstrated the proper muscles belonging to each lecture, now in general use at the theatre in Chirurgeons-Hall, London, and illustrated with two and forty copper-plates … Together with a philosophical and mathematical account of the mechanism of muscular motion, and an accurate and concise discourse of the heart and its use, with the circulation of the blood, &c. and with a compleat account of the arteries and veins, to their outward coats, proving them to be made with circular fleshy fibers, by whose contractions their trunks become narrowed, and the fluid particles of the blood are sent forwards into all the parts of the body. Digested into this new method, by the care and study of John Browne,

London : Printed by Tho. Milbourn for the Author, 1698    $ 4,500

Folio 12 1/2 x 8 inches. [π]3, ¶1, a-e2, A-Z2, Aa-Zz2, Aaa-Hhh2 (original blank Hhh2 present). In addition to the preceding collation, text complete with 39 (of 41) plates including the portrait frontispiece and 2 un-numbered plates (lacking plates 14 and 16 Second edition. Enlarged

This is a lovely copy, in good internal condition throughout..Bound in modern full  paneled calf. . A couple of leaves/plates with edge tears, nothing too disfiguring.

First published in 1681 under title: A compleat treatise of the muscles. The description of IMG_2183the muscles is based on William Molins’ Myskotomia, and the plates partly on Guilio Casserio’s Tabula anatomicae.According to Lowndes, the copies of this work that contain Browne’s portrait are printed on large paper.“Browne was a well-educated man, and in all likelihood a good surgeon, as he was certainly a well-trained anatomist according to the standard of the day. […] His treatise on the muscles consists of six lectures, illustrated by elaborate copper-plates, of which the engraving is better than the drawing. It is probably the first of such books in which the names of the muscles are printed on the figures. Browne’s portrait, engraved by R. White, is prefixed in different states to each of his books” (DNB).John Browne, physician to King Charles II, James II and William III, came from Norwich and gained surgical experience in London and in the navy, being wounded in the Anglo-Dutch war of 1665-67. About 1675 he was appointed surgeon-in-ordinary to Charles II and surgeon at St Thomas’s Hospital in 1683.

He published other works on medicine, including the first recorded description of IMG_2181cirrhosis of the liver (1685) and the best surviving account of touching for the king’s evil (1684). His most important contribution was one of the clearest early descriptions of cirrhosis of the liver. Browne was subjected to a scathing attack by James Young (1647/1721) in which the present work was shown to be plagiarized from works of Casserio and William Molinss-l1600-4. The nearly 40 anatomical plates were, with few exceptions, taken from Lolins’Myekotomia. Browne did not respond to Youngs criticism, but did make extensive changes to his text and issued future editions of the book under the title Myographia nova.”. (Heirs of Hippocrates N° 642 1681 ed.). Includes dedications to William III and Earl of Sunderland, printing privilege, preface, 8 letters and poems of commendation list of subscribers and a Treatise on Muscular Dissection by Dr Bernard Connor at beginning; and Mathematical Disquisitions concerning Muscular Motion and An Appendix of the Heart and its Use: with the circulation of the blood and index at the end, with a plate. The present work is based on William Molins’s “Myskotomia,” and the plates are based on Giulio Casserio’s (1552-1616) “Tabula Anatomicae.” In its later editions, this work appeared under the title: “Myographia Nova.”

Wing B-5126; ESTCR 20507; Russell 101; Cushing B-762; Wellcome III, p. 251; Eimas 642.


BROWNE, JOHN (1642–1700?), surgeon, was born probably at Norwich, where he lived in the early part of his life. He was of a surgical family, being, as he says, ‘conversant with chirurgery almost from my cradle, being the sixth generation of my own relations, all eminent masters of our profession.’ Among these relations was one William Crop, an eminent surgeon in Norfolk. He was acquainted with the celebrated Sir Thomas Browne of Norwich [q.v.], who wrote commendatory letters prefixed to two of his namesake’s books, but there is no mention of any kinship between them. Browne studied at St. Thomas’s Hospital, London, under Thomas Hollyer, but after serving as a surgeon in the navy settled down at Norwich. In 1677 he published his book on tumours, and in the following year migrated to London, being about the same time made surgeon in ordinary to King Charles II. On the occasion of a vacancy for a surgeon at St. Thomas’s Hospital, the king sent a letter recommending him for the appointment, and he was elected by the governors on 21 June 1683, ‘in all humble submission to his majesty’s s-l1600-3letter,’ though the claims of another surgeon, Edward Rice, who had taken charge of the hospital during the plague of 1665, when all the surgeons deserted their posts, were manifestly superior. This royal interference did not in the end prove a happy circumstance for Browne. In 1691 complaints arose that the surgeons did not obey the regulations of the hospital, and pretended that being appointed by royal mandamus they were not responsible to the governors. In the changed state of politics, and under the guidance of their able president, Sir Robert Clayton, the governors were determined to maintain their authority, and on 7 July 1691 they ‘put out’ the whole of their surgical staff, including Browne, and appointed other surgeons in their place. Browne appealed to the lords commissioners of the great seal, and the governors were called upon to defend their proceedings. The decision apparently went in their favour, for in 1698 Browne humbly petitioned the governors to be reinstated, though without success. Browne managed to continue in court favour after the revolution, and was surgeon to William III. He died probably early in the eighteenth century. (1)  Browne was a well-educated man, and in all likelihood a good surgeon, as he was certainly a well-trained anatomist according to the standard of the day. His books show no lack of professional knowledge, though they are wanting in originality. The most notable perhaps is ‘Charisma Basilicon, or an Account of the Royal Gift of Healing,’ where he describes the method pursued by Charles II in touching for the ‘king’s evil,’ with which as the king’s surgeon he was officially concerned. Though full of gross adulation and a credulity which it is difficult to believe sincere, it is the best contemporary account of this curious rite as practised by the Stuart kings, and gives statistics of the numbers of persons touched (amounting between 1660 and 1682 to 92,107). His treatise on the muscles consists of six lectures, illustrated by elaborate copper-plates, of which the engraving is better than the drawing. It is probably the first of such books in which the names of the muscles are printed on the figures. Browne’s portrait, engraved by R. White, is prefixed in different states to each of his books. (Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 07 Browne, John (1642-1700?) by Joseph Frank Payne.

Wing (CD-ROM, 1996), B5129


337J Grew

337J Nehemiah Grew

The Anatomy of Plants. With an Idea of a Philosophical History of Plants. And several other Lectures, Read before the Royal Society.

[London] printed by W. Rawlins, for the Author, 1682.           $5,600

Folio 12 1/2 X 8 inches. [ ]4, a4, B-Z4, Aa-Ii4, Kk2, Ll-Xx4, Yy-Zz2, Aaa-Ccc2. With 83 added engraved plates five of which are double-paged.

Bound in contemporary English calf, rebacked, red morocco spine label (chipped with loss of 5 letters), extremities worn and partially defective; some soiling or browning internally. Plates 54-83 with stain along top margin. A good copy.

“Grew himself tells us that he was led to the study of vegetable anatomy as early as 1664, considering that both plants and animals ‘came at first out of the same Hand, and were therefore the Contrivances of the same Wisdom,’ and so inferring the probable analogy of their structures.  Having been encouraged in the study by Henry Sampson, who was nine years his senior, Grew in 1670 put into his hands an essay on the subject, which he showed to Henry Oldenburg, secretary to the Royal Society, who in turn showed it to Bishop Wilkins, who read it to the Royal Society.  It was approved and ordered to be printed on 11 May 1671, and the author was elected a fellow of the society on 30 Nov. 

IMG_2157“Meanwhile, Grew had graduated M.D. at Leyden in July.  Grew seems to have commenced practice at Coventry, but to have been soon invited to London, the correspondence on this subject being still preserved by the Royal Society.  His preliminary essay, ‘The Anatomy of Vegetables begun.  With a General Account of Vegetation grounded theron,’ was prefaced by a letter to Wilkins, dated Coventry, 10 June 1671, and was published, with a dedication to Lord Brouncker, president of the Royal Society, in 8vo, 1672.  It was therefore undoubtedly in print by 7 Dec. 1671, when Marcell Malpighi’s researches in the same direction were communicated to the society in manuscript.  Malpighi  subsequently had Grew’s book translated into Latin, and he, Wallis, Lister, and Leewenhoek confirmed by microscopical investigation the observations Grew had made with the naked eye.  His papers read to the society on 8 and 15 Jan. 1672 appeared with the title ‘An Idea of a Phytological History propounded, with a Continuation of the IMG_2156Anatomy of Vegetables, particularly prosecuted upon Roots.  And an Account of the Vegetation of Roots chiefly grounded thereupon’ (8vo, 1673; folio, 1682); and on 18 April 1672, on the proposal of Bishop Wilkins, he was made curator to the society for the anatomy of plants.  Grew issued in 1675 ‘The Comparative Anatomy of Trunks, with an Account of their Vegetation grounded thereupon,’ the plates of which had been laid before the society in the two previous years.  The author’s corrected copy of this work is in the library of the British Museum.  

“In 1675 Grew published the first of a series of chemical papers “Of the Nature, Causes, and Power of Mixture,’ read before the society on 10 Dec. 1674.  This was followed by ‘A Discourse of the Diversities and Causes of Tasts chiefly in Plants,’25 March 1675; ‘An Essay of the Various Proportions wherein the Lixivial Salt is found in Plants,’ read 25 March 1676; “Experiments in consort of the Luctations arising from the Affusion of several Menstruums upon all sorts of Bodies,’ exhibited to the society in April and June of 1676; ‘A Discourse concerning the Essential and Marine Salts of Plants,’ read 21 Dec. 1676; ‘Experiments in consort upon Solutions of Salts in Water,’ read 18 Jan. 1677; and  ‘A Discourse on the Colours of Plants,’ read 3 May 1677.  These seven essays occupy eighty-four folio pages at the end of the 1682 edition of the ‘Anatomy of Plants,’ where they are printed with continuous pagination, but not in the order in which they were read.  Simultaneously with these researches of a chemical nature, Grew was prosecuting with remarkable industry his anatomical investigations.  Though not published until 1682, ‘The Anatomy of Leaves, Flowers, and Fruits’ was read to the society on 26 Oct. and 9 Nov. 1676 and in 1677; and the figures illustrative of the ‘Anatomy of Seeds’ were also exhibited in the latter year.   


“In 1682 Grew’s magnum opus, ‘The Anatomy of Plants,’ was issued.  Of the four ‘books’ of this work, the first, second, and third are second editions of ‘The Anatomy begun,’ ‘The Anatomy of Roots,’ and the ‘The Anatomy of Trunks,’ extending to 49, 46, and 44 folio pages respectively, and illustrated by four, thirteen, and twenty-three plates.  The fourth book, dedicated to Boyle, includes ‘The Anatomy of Leaves, Flowers, Fruits, and Seeds,’ 72 pages, with forty-two plates.  Among the structural points clearly shown in these plates are the coats of the ovule and seed, the pulpy coat to that of the gooseberry, the cotyledons, plumule, and radicle of the embryo, the vascular bundles in leaf-stalks, the resin-ducts of the pine, the latex-vessels of the vine and the sumach, the folding of leaves in buds, superficial hairs and internal crystals, the structure of the minute flowers of the compositae, the stamens, or ‘attire,’ as they were then termed, and their pollen-grains.  Although it is commonly attributed, on the ground of a modest remark of Grew’s, to Sir Thomas Millington, it is probable that to Grew himself belongs the credit of first observing the true existence of sex in plants. Haller styles him ‘industrius ubique naturae observator,’ and Linneaus dedicated to him the genus Grewia in Tiliaceae.” (DNB)

Wing G-1945; Le Fanu, pp.98-105; Horblit 43B; Hunt 362; Nissen, BBI, 758; Hook/Norman 946; Plesch 243; Pritzel 3557; Henrey 162.  


Manuscript, in a single italic hand, of a copy of Petty’s treatise on the hierarchies of beings created by God. The work addresses the proportion between God and man; how God communicates with man; in what way man is chief of all the animals; the infirmities and imperfections of man; and the divisions and gradations of the lesser cale of animals, with man at the top and the smallest worms at the bottom. The manuscript is accompanied by two letters: a letter from Nehemiah Grew to Sir Robert Southwell, discussing this work and Southwell’s work of the same title, and referring to Grew’s own observations on the subject and a parallel work by Sir Matthew Hale; and a letter from Southwell to Grew, dated 1701, on the same subject.  

[We need not think] that there is any Contradiction, when Philosophy teaches that to be done by Nature; which Religion, and the Sacred Scriptures, teach us to be done by God: no more, than to say, That the balance of a Watch is moved by the next Wheel, is to deny that Wheel, and the rest, to be moved by the Spring; and that both the Spring, and all the other Parts, are caused to move together by the Makerof them. So God may be truly the Cause of This Effect, although a Thousand other Causes should be supposed to intervene: For all Nature is as one Great Engine, made by, and held in His Hand.] ‘An Idea of a Philosophical History of Plants’,  from The Anatomy of Plants With an Idea of a Philosophical History of Plants and Several Other Lectures Read Before the Royal Society (1682)


“Grew published his philosophical and theological views late in life in his Cosmologia Sacra: or a Discourse of the Universe as it is the Creature and Kingdom of God. In his last book Grew argues for a number of doctrines. He divides the natural causes within the universe into vital and corporeal components. Living and cognitive creatures have their origins in a Vital Principle, distinct from matter, yet bodies are necessary for the existence of Life. Life, being “more excellent” [p.34] than mere physical motion, requires an “Excellent, and so a distinct Subject, to which it belongs. And therefore something, which is Substantial, yet Incorporeal”. Grew’s vitalism was not uncommon for the time, especially among the doctors, and reflects the neo-Platonist heritage found in many influential naturalists such as John Ray (1627-1705). But Grew revealed his sympathies for nonconformist religious thought in his account of miracles. Grew asserts a form a Deism: that once God has created the world in accordance with His laws, God has no further need to interfere. God acts through the world only through secondary, that is, natural causes (which includes the vital, incorporeal principle of Life). God does not act directly upon natural events but brings them about by other natural events. Miraculous events are merely those events which are rare and for which the cause is unknown; but they are not caused directly by God “…every Miracle is effected in the Use of some Second or Natural cause: Yet to make it a miracle, it is requisite, that this cause be unknown to us” [p. 195].

The denial of miracles supports Grew’s dominant theme: that the universe reveals the existence and wisdom of God in its design and structure. The deist view sits happily with mechanist perspective. Everywhere a doctor looks he can see the remarkable living machinery of the body; how organs grow to their proper and useful places. Grew took it that the teleological features of the universe revealed the wisdom of its construction. The idea was an old one but had recently gained ground in Robert Boyle’s discussion A Disquisition About Final Causes. Grew was not as careful as the skeptical alchemist and saw many of the world’s wonders as designed for the sake of Man, although he took it that the internal structures of plants were for the benefit of plants. The incredible usefulness of the Coco plant, the silkworm and of iron, indicate that the universe is well suited to Mankind. But the argument from design is often ridiculed as an argument from poor design, when one reflects on the hardships of life and the immorality of Men. Grew is not daunted by such reflections:

The most Exorbitant Phancies and Lusts of Men, illustrate the Beauty of God’s Creation. One man makes all his thoughts and Pleasures, to centre in Meats and Drinks; Another, in Musick; a third, in Women; or some other Sense or Phancy so as to think of nothing else. Which, as it shows the infirmity of human nature; so the Plenitude and Perfection of the World, in being fitted, so many ways, to Beatifie Men, would they know discreetly how to use it. And the same Lust and Phancies, are many other ways turned to Good. [p.104].

Grew made his observations independently but simultaneously with Marcello Malphigi, in what might be considered a case of independent co-discovery, an interesting phenomenon in the history of science. Most famous is the co-discovery of natural selection by Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace. But if Grew and Malphigi’s work counts as co-discovery it is in a very different way from that of Darwin and Wallace. Arguably, the co-discovery in plant morphology was a result of technological advances due to the invention of the microscope and was somewhat non-theoretical. Darwin and Wallace, however, discovered a law of nature, making significant theoretical advances in addition to their remarkable observations. But of course, without the meticulous work by the pioneers of botany, fruitful theory would not have arisen. Thus Nehemiah Grew must be remembered for his pioneering role in the establishment of modern botany.

By Dr. Brian Jonathan Garrett
Professor of Philosophy
McMaster University

This article, The Life and Work of 17th-Century Botanist Nehemiah Grew, was originally published in The Public Domain Review under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. If you wish to reuse it please see: