Gibson. 1680?-1750.

The farriers dispensatory :  in three parts. Containing I. A description of the medicinal simples, commonly made use of in the Diseases of Horses, with their Virtues and Manner of Operation, distributed into proper Classes, &c. II. The preparations of simples, vegetable, animal and mineral ; with an Explanation of the most usual Terms, both in the Chymical and Galenical Pharmacy. III. A number of useful compositions and receipts suited to the Cure of all Diseases, never before published ; as also those of greatest Account from Solleysell, Ruini, Blundevill, and other most celebrated Authors, digested under their proper Heads of Powders, Balls, Drinks, Ointments, Charges, &c. The proper Method of compounding and making them, with many other useful Observations and Improvements tending to their right Administration. To which is also added, A compleat Index of all the Medicines contained in the Book, whether Simple or Compound, with a Table of Diseases pointing to the Remedies proper in each Malady. By W. Gibson.

London : Printed for W. Taylor, at the Ship and Black-Swan, in Pater-Noster-Row, 1721. $1,400

Octavo  First edition, Bound in contemporary full calf, with the book plate of John Hepburn Surgeon 1735 and a manuscript additional cure for sprains.

The Farriers Dispensatory was William Gibson’s (1680-1751) supplement to his Farriers Guide. The second of his four published texts, the Dispensatory was a welcome successor to the incredibly well-received Farriers New Guide. This treatise was dedicated to Sir William Hope of Balcomie (1660-1724), a prominent equestrian and a translator of Jacques Solleysel’s (1617-1680) The Compleat Horseman (London, 1696). Sir William Hope believed that Gibson’s work was monumental and enlightening, going so far as to say that, ‘But be that as it will I am mightily well pleased that I can truly say, Britain has now a Gibson, as France formerly a Solleysell.’[*]

Gibson firmly believed that, at least at the time, those ‘endeavouring to make their Books compleat Systems, have not only rendered them much more perplexed than otherwise they would have been, but so tedious in many Place, that they are enough to deter any unaccustomed Reader from the least Perusal of them.’[22] In an effort to keep The Farriers New Guide from being unnecessarily complicated, Gibson chose not to include a collection of medicines and ‘receipts’ in his first text, but rather to publish an entire separate text to address such treatments. The Farriers Dispensatory, composed in three parts, contains a ‘Description of medicinal Simples, commonly made use of in the Diseases of Horses….,; the Preparations of Simples, Vegetable, Animal, and Mineral….; a Number of useful Compositions and Receipts suited to the Cure of all Diseases….;’ and ‘a compleat Index of all the Medicines contained in the Book.’[*]

Gibson specifically chose to structure his book as a dispensatory because it was the most extensive style of text and because he believed that it would be best suited to those who did not have the leisure or ability to read many books.[24] He also argued that his particular version of dispensatory guards ‘against all such Errors and Defects as have been already hinted at, by explaining the Nature of every Medicine, whether simple or compound, so far as is needful to the right Administration thereof, having also laid down the necessary Cautions, with a particular Observation of all such symptoms as require a Change or Alteration….’[25] It was vital to Gibson that his dispensatory improved upon the medical knowledge published and practiced by other farriers and authors. He claimed that many similar books took their prescribed medicines from books of physic for humans, but that the authors had little acquaintance with the study and did not properly adjust the recipes for equine use. Gibson warned that other farriery treatises recommended useless and insignificant cures, did not give proper doses or warnings, and suggested cures that, when mixed with others, reduced the cure’s effectiveness.[*]

in 1671, new laws opening up previously restricted lands for the gentry to use for events such as hunts, expanded equine sports to those who had not had such opportunities due to their lack of land access.[5] The need and desire for athletically gifted horses sparked an expansion of breeding in England and the surrounding countries. Tudor and Stuart monarchs ‘took the lead in improving the quality of the stock’ by importing Barbs, Turkomans, Neapolitans and other foreign horses with the intentions of improving the royal stud and producing more magnificent equine athletes.[**]

English Short Title Catalog,; T94761LoC , BYU, U of Nebraska Med Ctr.

Peter Edwards, Horse and Man in Early Modern England (London: Hambledon Continuum, 2007).

[*] Michael Hubbard MacKay, “The Rise of a Medical Specialty: The Medicalization of Elite Equine Care C. 1680 – C. 1800” (PhD Thesis, University of York, 2009).J.F. Smithcors, “William Gibson, Surgeon-Farrier, On Fevers,” Medical History 2, no. 3 (1958), 210.

[**] J.F. Smithcors, “William Gibson, Surgeon-Farrier, On Fevers,” Medical History 2, no. 3 (1958), 210.