Exposing Sham Medicine & Poisonous Chemistry: A "Skeptical Chemist's" Guide to Proper Medical Practice & Self-Care


Various Injuries & Abuses in Chymical and Galenical Physick: committed both by Physicians & Apothecaries, detected. For the benefit of such, who being concientious and studious in Physick, aim chiefly at the welfare of the sick. And of those patients, whether rich or poor, who are willing to preserve their lives & healths.

London: printed by John Darby, for Richard Jones, at The Golden Lion in Little Brittain, 1674


Octavo: 14 x 9.5 cm. [14], 208 p. Collation: A-O8 (Lacks blank A1, presumed blank. Page count as per ESTC.)


Bound in contemporary blind-ruled calf, rebacked, some chipping to the spine. A very good, clean copy. Very rare. 3 copies recorded in North America (Huntington, NYPL, NLM).

A rare and remarkable book in which the author presents a withering critique of unscrupulous and self-promoting medical practitioners who, whether through ignorance, avarice, or practice of "botch" medicine, cause great harm to the unwitting patient, sometimes killing them. To counter this, Godfrey has written a book exposing sham medicine for those who earnestly hope to heal the sick, and offering up safe and effective home remedies for those who would keep themselves from being harmed.

Godfrey undertook the study of physick and chemistry "Hoping thereby to acquire only so much knowledge in medicine as to keep me from being kill'd, as my father had been by a poisonous dose, and to preserve my health for the future, which had been formerly much impaired by bad." In this pursuit of knowledge, Godfrey was tutored by a "true-hearted Chemical Physician" who put his extensive "physical library" at the author's disposal. He spent a number of these same years studying chemistry on his own, and at great expense. "I fell on the study of Chymistry, nor regarded I my Moneys, so that I, who always hated Botchery, might have real Art: But spent hundreds of pounds sterling to that end."

Godfrey denounces and derides those sham chemists and physicians who, in order to win their patients' confidence and business, display their chemical apparatus, say a few words in Latin, and give their "Hotch-potchy" medicines exotic names. Where their greed is compounded by ignorance, people die. "And although Helmont (whose disciples they would fain be counted) tells them 'Mercury, so long as it may be reviv'd, and Antinomy, so long as it Purge or Vomit, are poysons, and not the Remedies of a good man.': yet will they sometimes drive a subtil trade with such Mercurial and Antimonial medicines, that either purge or vomit, till by the death of severall and loss of their own credit they are somewhat startled."

And while the Galenists and chemists attack and accuse each other, Godfrey condemns them equally. "And notwithstanding the Galenists blame the Chymists for using hazardous remedies, and pretend, whilst they themselves use poysons, to go safely to work. Yet who are more subject to give venomous Antimonial Medicines than they are? None, I am perswaded."

One of the most notable of Godfrey's targets is John Glauber. While he must admit that he finds some of what Glauber has written good and useful ("though methods tedious enough in preparation are given"), after reading certain of his works he can only believe that he was either mad or sought to deceive the world. "It makes me even admire at the Man: and judge if he was not mad or out of his wits, when he wrote those impertinent discourses, yet conclude he was resolv'd to abuse the World with a parcel of figments and fictions, and out of a desire to impose on the too-credulous, pretend to teach Luciferous secrets."(p. 44) By contrast, Godfrey praises Von Helmont, and devotes a chapter to his life, and includes some translations of passages from Helmont's writings.

ESTC R21846; Wellcome III p.129; Wing G927