North American Indian Doctor

Robert FOSTER

Item#: 114160 We're sorry, this item has been sold

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"TAKE ANY QUANTITY OF INDIAN PIPE, STEEP [SIC] AND DRINK… THIS IS AN INDIAN REMEDY, AND WELL APPROVED BY ALL WHO HAVE SEEN IT USED": FIRST EDITION OF FORSTER'S NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN DOCTOR, 1838

FOSTER, Robert D. The North American Indian Doctor, Or Nature's Method of Curing and Preventing Disease According to the Indian… Also, A Treatise on Midwifery, With the Treatment Necessary during Pregnancy. Also A Materia Medica of Indian Remedies… Canton, Ohio: Printed for the Author, By Smith and Bevin, 1838. Small octavo (4-1/2 by 7 inches), contemporary half brown cloth and marbled boards; pp. 153 (2). Housed in a custom chemise and clamshell box.

First edition of Foster's important early work highlighting American Indian medicinal practices, a fascinating practical guide that offers signals to how "the forces that mark American history and literature are the same that marked the interaction of Indian and white medicine," with hundreds of remedies for both ordinary and deadly ailments, in contemporary boards.

In the 16th century Europeans such as Spain's Nicolás Monardes already "extolled the virtues of such products of the American native materia medica as tobacco, sassafras, guaiacum, sarsaparilla and balsams" (Vogel, American Indian Medicine, 7). "Of 218 plant drugs available in England in 1874, 25 (12.4 percent) came from the New World. Three hundred years earlier, in 1574, Monardes had described 47 drugs from the New World, and perhaps 20 others were added to European pharmacopoeias over the next 50 years" (Varey, Chabran, Weiner, eds. Searching for the Secrets of Nature, 119). "The most important evidence of Indian influence on American medicine is seen in the fact that more than 200 indigenous drugs which were used by one or more Indian tribes have been official in Pharmacopeia of the United States of America for varying periods since the first edition appeared in 1820" (Vogel, 4).

Foster's North American Doctor is one of the earliest 19th-century works, for general usage, that details how Amerindian "discoveries have helped to open new frontiers in medical history" (Vogel, 5). Its publication in 1838 would also point to an emerging belief that the medicinal treatments of American Indians were "a cure for civilized society's sickness of body and soul… The interaction of Indian and white medicine can be seen as both medium and metaphor for the intercultural relations that bound Euro-American and Indian peoples… And today Anglo and Amerindian identities remain wedded… the forces that mark American history and literature are the same that marked the interaction of Indian and white medicine" (Bellin, Medicine Bundle, 28-29, 13-14). In addition to detailing examinations for students of anatomy, physiology, midwifery and matera medica, Foster identifies over 300 treatments and medicines for asthma, measles, influenza, cholera, lockjaw, gout and much more, many featuring the use of the "Indian turnip," "Blue cohosh… an Indian herb," and tobacco, which is described as useful for everything from lice to tooth aches to snakebite. "To the Reader" citing: "this my first edition." Midland Notes, No. 55. Only four copies at auction since 1970.

Text with scattered foxing, occasional mild dampstaining, some edge-wear, rubbing to boards. A very good copy rare in original boards.

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