Awoodcut of a castle with trees.

Treatise of Artificial Waters

By Margaret Kaiser ~

Text written in French and a drawing of a castle.
The title page shows a lovely walled garden with flowing fountain.

Herbs have been grown and used as medicine for thousands of years.  Le Traicte des eaues artificielles les vertus & propriétés dicelles (The Treatise of artificial waters, the virtues and properties of these) is a collection of recipes for herbal waters.

Herbal waters were an easy to take and effective way to benefit from the healing qualities of plants.  The recipes were collected at the request of Joan I of Auvergne, Countess of Auvergne and Boulogne.  She became Queen of France by her marriage to King John II who ruled from 1350 until his death in 1364.  First printed in Lyon in 1483, Le Traicte provides recipes for waters that can be made from plants, including lily, rose, and mint.

Herbal waters are made by heating the herbs in water just as you make tea.  This process vaporizes some of the compounds found in the plants while concentrating others, producing water which contains the essence of the plant and its curative properties.

This text was very popular. Although many editions were printed, they were meant for daily use; the books were heavily used and few examples have survived. This book, printed in Paris, is an apparently unrecorded edition of the work which was first published in 1483. Similar extant editions are dated 1520 and 1529. It is a small volume, only 5 ½ inches tall, beautifully bound in green morocco with gilt edges, and the only known copy of this edition.

Access to this title is provided through LocatorPlus, the Library’s online catalog.  For questions about this title and other historical collections, including how to consult them, please contact the History of Medicine Division Reference staff at NLM Customer Support or call (301) 402-8878.

Margaret Kaiser is Acquisitions Librarian for the Rare Books and Early Manuscripts Section in the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine.

3 comments

    1. Good question. We couldn’t wait to share the news! NLM is thrilled to have recently acquired this extremely rare work as part of our mission to collect and preserve the history of medicine.
      We have a robust digitization program by which we scan and make available through NLM Digital Collections hundreds of books a year. You can find a number of books on this subject already digitized. This one too, will be scanned. If you would like to see the full text sooner, have your local library place an interlibrary loan request to NLM, which will expedite scanning.
      Also, check out our other posts about herbals and recipes.

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