Monday, April 20, 2015

Subtleties&Stuffe A medicinal dispensatory on sugar

Jean de Renou (circa 1568 – circa 1620) was a French physician and author. The auction firm Christie’s in 2009 described Renou as  “a French pharmaceutical authority and chief physician to the French king. In discussing the 1626 Les Oeuvres Pharmaceutiques, Christie’s pointed out the popularity of such pharmacopoeias, especially after they were translated from the original Latin into French and later into English. []

His Dispensatorium medicum, continents institutionum pharmaceuticarum lib., under the pseudonym Renodœus, was published in 1615 and 1623. The 1623 edition may be seen through Google Books.

The work was published in London in 1657 as:

A medicinal dispensatory, containing the vvhole body of physick discovering the natures, properties, and vertues of vegetables, minerals, & animals: the manner of compounding medicaments, and the way to administer them. Methodically digested in five books of philosophical and pharmaceutical institutions; three books of physical materials galenical and chymical. Together with a most perfect and absolute pharmacopoea or apothecaries shop. Accommodated with three useful tables. Composed by the illustrious Renodæus, chief physician to the monarch of France; and now Englished and revised, by Richard Tomlinson of London, apothecary.

The English translation, as noted above, was by Richard Tomlinson. It is described as “Three books of medicinal materials" and "has separate dated title page and register" with "pagination is more or less continuous.”
It may be viewed at

In the section titled “Of such Medicinal Materials as are requisite for Compositions made and kept in Apothecaries Shops,” we find the following descriptions of sugar:

Of Sugar.

SUgar was unknown to the Antients; which is now so copious, that to say a Pharmacopoly without Sugar, were more than an * Irony. Yet it doth not fall from Heaven like dew, nor is it gathered of Plants leaves, as some have thought, who look onely at the name: but it is got of an arundinaceous Plant, which grows not onely in India, but in many places of Asia and Africa, and now in some Gardens in France; but it scarcely escapes secure from the Winters tempests.
This sacchariferous Plant is about eight foot high, very crass, knotty, obduced on every side with long, strait, and twined leaves, hollow, sappy, and stuffed within with plenty of sweet juice, which will distill down the cut cane like Amber; whose pith or sap being severed from the cane by a knife, and co[e or c]ted on the fire, will turn all into Sugar, save a little Salt at the bottome of the vessel. Its roots emulate the roots of our Cane, but they are not so ligneous, but more succulent and sweet, from which some sprigs erupt, which if pulled up, and transplanted in due time, will grow and flourish. It bears hairy flowers, like our reeds, which one thing is enough to shew that it is a reed.
The juice extracted from it, and but once co[e or c]ted, is not sufficiently elaborate, but is red, and thence called brown Sugar; by some, Sugar-froth; which when it is cocted longer, and more defecated; will be white, and is called Sugar absolutely. There comes Sugar from Madara and Canary, which is extraordinary white, which as much excells the other in worth, as it doth in candour: yet some Negotiators bring some a little duller, which is as good as the other. But many adulterate Madarensian Sugar, by washing common Sugar with lixive, cocting it again, and absterging the nigritude from off it, by which means they make it exceeding white, but not so sweet, and gratefull. [p 223, showing page 213 in the Google Books images.]
Sugar-Candy is thus made of common Sugar. Let the Sugar be melted with a little water, and elixated like a crass syrup, which inject into an earthen pot, wherein wooden sticks are put lattice-wise, and cross one over another; set the pot on a board in a hot place, where leave it for the space of fifteen or twenty dayes, then pour out the syrup that is not concreted, and pour in a little warm water, to wash off the fatness of the syrup, which again pour out, and repose the vessel in a hot place; take it on the morrow, and break it, and you shall finde the sticks laden with Sugar-Candy, shining like Crystal.
There is another kinde of Sugar not so white, nor yet so crass as the former, which is partly pulverated, partly redacted to more crass lumps, which the vulgar call Cassonade, or Castonade; which is not onely used in Kitchins, but also in Shops.
That which is brought us from far Countryes, is turbinated pyramidal-wise, and commonly called Sugar-loaf, which is less cocted, and less obdurate than Candy, and so less calid, and more accommodate to obdulcorate Condiments, Broths, and other Aliments; for Sugar abates acrity, retunds acidity, gratifies austerity, and makes all sapours more suave. Whence not onely Confectioners, but Bakers and Cooks frequently use Sugar, for no delicate Dish comes on the Table that doth not participate of Sugar; for if Water, Wine, Fruits, Flesh, Fish, or other Edibles or Potables be nauscated, the mixture of a little Sugar will make them current.
All Sugar is moderately hot, conducible to the roughness of the tongue, asperity in the breast, and to the cough; it moves spittle, but hurts the teeth, for it effects nigritude, mobility, and rubiginy in them. [p 224 but shown as page 214 in the Google Books images]

The word shown looks like cocted or coeted. It makes sense that it might be cooked?

Even more interesting are the descriptions of various gums, including this 

description of gum tragacanth.

Page 396

Of Gumme Tragacanth.
GUm-Tragacanth is pellucid, white, sweet, light and sincere; which flowes from the vulnerated root of a certain Plant of the same name, this root adhaeres to the surface of the Earth, and emitts low and rigid surcles; whereon are many and slender leafes which cover white, straight, and firm spines: this arbuscle which the Greeks call Tragacantha, and the Latines Spina herci, growes in Crete and many places in Asia, which emitts its succe spontaneously, and without incisure, as Theophrastus asserts contrary to Dioscorides, who saith that this Plant hath no need of vulneration, which though it be exoticall and seldome seen by our herbalists, yet I saw it cicurated and florid in the Garden of Jo. Gonnerius that perite Physitian; yet its coagulated succe, which the Gentiles call Tragacanthum, and the Apothecaryes Dragaganthum is sufficiently known to all: it cannot be easily laevigated unlesse the Morter and pestle be hot.
Its use is commended to ocular medicaments, in a liniment with Honey or Sugar; it emends the roughnesse of the artery, coughs, retusenesse of voice, and other defluxions.

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