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Domestic Medicine

William Buchan (1729-1805)
Domestic medicine, or, A treatise on the prevention and cure of diseases, by regimen and simple medicines (Philadelphia : Printed by Richard Folwell, for Robert Campbell & Co., 1797.)
MU Health Sciences Library
Rare Book Room 
WZ 270 .B918d 1797

William Buchan portrait
Image credit: National Library of Medicine

Domestic Medicine was the single most popular health guide prior to the twentieth century.  From its first printing in 1769 to the last in 1871, the book went through at least 142 editions in several different languages.  It was one of the first guides to make medical information accessible to the public, and Dr. Buchan was quoted as an authority in many medical books, including several in this exhibition.

For Buchan, like many other nineteenth-century physicians, food should be matched to an individual’s constitution. For example, Buchan writes,

Such as abound with blood should be sparing in the use of every thing that is highly nourishing, as fat meat, rich wines, strong ale, and such like.  Their food should consist mostly of bread and other vegetable substances; and their drink ought to be water, whey, or small beer.

Buchan also inveighs against cooking, proclaiming, “It were well for mankind if cookery, as an art, were entirely prohibited.”  Spices, sauces, seasonings, and mixing foods together, he argues, are all injurious to health.

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