The natural history of Lancashire, Cheshire, and the peak, in Derbyshire: with an account of the British, Phœnician, Armenian, Gr. and Rom. antiquities in those parts. By Charles Leigh, Doctor of Physick.

558J. Leigh, Charles. (1662-1701?)  The natural history of Lancashire, Cheshire, and the peak, in Derbyshire: with an account of the British, Phœnician, Armenian, Gr. and Rom. antiquities in those parts. By Charles Leigh, Doctor of Physick.        

 Leigh, remembered primarily as a naturalist and a Fellow of the Royal Society, was a physician by profession. He published several works, “the most important of which is a ‘Natural History of Lancashire, Cheshire, and the Peak of Derbyshire’.” (Thomas)The text of this volume is most intriguing; it is, all in one, a catalogue of antiquities, an archaeological survey, and a freak show, medical book and classical history book.

One of the author’s many goals is to demonstrate and prove, by producing artifacts and animals from far flung corners of the world, that a huge flood covered the whole earth and dislodged hippos from the homelands, planting them in the mud of Lancashire.  His investigations   begin with a description of the weather and the physical environment (the temperature and pressure of air, the “principles” of mineral waters, soil and coal, minerals and metals) and performs experiments to demonstrate the properties of these various substances and their effects upon humans and animals.  He are also describes the  flora and fauna, with several long passages on trees and plants, and an entire chapter dedicated to marine biology and “Fossile Plants”.   With this evidence, Leigh ‘proves’ the historical reality of the “Universal Deluge” by producing artefacts in Lancashire that were never naturally occurring and therefore must have been swept to England in the Flood. 

‘In Book II,  Leigh turns to a discussion of Physick, beginning with a description and comparison of variously textured solid substances, including shells, taken from “a man’s leg, a man’s stool, the bladder of a hog” and other surprising places. The rest of the second book concerns various ‘distempers’ including an account of a “The Pestilential Fever raging in Lancashire, in the years 1693, 94, 95, 96”. Leigh discusses the symptoms of each illness, provides case studies, offers medicinal cures, and posits causes, giving the reader a vivid and unadulterated understanding of the state of 17th century Medical arts.

 

Folio, 8 3/5 x 13 3/5 in.   Signatures:  π2, A2, a2, [a]1, b-c2,  π5***2, B-Z2, Aa-Tt2, π6, A-Z2, Aa-Bb2, A-S2, [t]-[v]2, T-V2, π2, X-Z2, Aa-Oo2, Aaa-Ddd2.  First edition.The illustrations in this book are magnificent. They consist of twenty-two full-paged engravings of fossils, caves, and other geological sites; a double-paged map with contemporary coloring; two pages of the arms of the subscribers; and a portrait of the author after Faithorne.  Overall, this is a lovely copy. Bound in late 20th century quarter calf over decorated boards.  Oxford: Printed for the Author; and to be had at Mr. George West’s, and Mr. Henry Clement’s, Booksellers there; Mr. Edward Evet’s, at the Green-Dragon, in St. Paul’s Church-yard; and Mr. John Nicholson, at the King’s-Arms, in Little-Britain, London, 1700.             $3,500

Wing L-975; Freeman, 2211. McGill/Wood, p.431; Nissen, ZBI, 2436; Yale/Riply, p.167; Upcott I, pp. 455-7.

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