About the Medicina Pensylvania and George de Benneville

Eighteenth-Century Colonial Formularies:
The Manuscripts of George de Benneville and Abraham Wagner

About the Medicina Pensylvania and George de Benneville

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The following briefly outlines the life and times of George de Benneville. The reader is warned that the available sources are fragmentary and relate mainly to George de Benneville as a sectarian Christian and eventual universalist minister. There is some autobiographical material in German and English, a biographical study, and largely unexplored correspondence with German spiritualists and evangelical radicals, including Gerhard Tersteegen, at the Schwenkfelder Library.[1] His medical practice in rural Pennsylvania and later in Philadelphia is described, largely anecdotally, by Meier (1976). Its apparent financial success and that of his pharmacy is reflected in survey maps and probationary records, including a will, that show considerable and valuable landholdings. Before dealing in greater detail with the structure and content of the Medicina Pensylvania by George de Benneville, we summarize these and related findings (see also Wilson and Savacool, 1998, Wilson 2001, Wilson 2000).

The life and the historical context

George de Benneville was born in London in 1703, reportedly of a noble Huguenot family under the patronage of Queen Anne, and died in Philadelphia in 1793. He was a founder of the Universalist congregations in North America. He came to this country in 1740 and joined the reborn and radical Christian circle around the printer Christopher Sauer senior, having spent much of his young adulthood as a religious refugee traveling in Huguenot and other radical religious circles in Protestant Europe. He may have studied at a Dutch university, or at one of the dissenting academies in South West Germany. Among his documented European correspondents were the spiritualists Gerhard Tersteegen and the Viscount Hector de Marsay, a leader of the spiritualist wing of the refugee Huguenot community and apparently a patron of de Benneville. De Benneville himself left an array of religious and alchemical writings in addition to the Medicina Pensylvania, a report on a conversion experience during his youth, but no published medical texts or observations other than the Medicina Pensylvania.[2] He married into an established Huguenot family in the Philadelphia region, the Bertholets, soon after his arrival and was the progenitor of a socially and economically well established clan which produced several physicians, first his son George, Jr. and extending to a surgeon serving during the Civil War. He is reported to have practiced in Oley, Pa., and then removed to Philadelphia (Meier, 1976). There is no well documented record of his proprietorship in a pharmacy, although there is indirect evidence that he was a partner of Thomas Say sr. in a pharmacy off Race Street in Philadelphia that Say later ran with and then sold to Isaac Bartram and Moses Bartram.[3] De Benneville's financial position can be traced through several deeds, his will, and surveys showing his properties to the north of Philadelphia and real estate sold after his death on the commercial riverfront section in Philadelphia. His family gravesite still exists and is maintained under a family Trust.

It is important to note that de Benneville was not a singular practitioner of chemiatric medicine with alchemical interests in North America (Müller-Jahnke, 1988). More likely, he was part of a small elite network similar to that described by Patricia Watson (1991), George Griffenhagen (1961) and Gevitz and Sullivan Fowler (1995) for New England and, for the middle colonies, by Louis A. Meier, a 20th century Pennsylvania country doctor (Meier, 1976). One example of this network is a neighbor in the Oley area, Abraham Wagner, the so-called Schwenkfelder doctor, whose formulary and casebook is also reproduced on this website. (See the following section for information about Wagner (b. 1715, Silesia, d. 1763, Worcester, Pa.)

The manuscript

Accession and material aspects

The manuscript was donated to the College of Physicians in Philadelphia in 1911 by Leonard S. Myers. The fly leaf bears the inscription: Harriet de B. Kaim, from her father, and is dated 1841. We do not know where the manuscript resided in the intervening period. The Medicina Pensylvania or The Pensylvania Physician is a 187-folio document numbered in duplicate pages to p. 147-8, written in English on the versos or left hand side of the folios and in German on the right hand side. The left side of the cover page is inscribed: By a French Author. (signed) G. de B. Senior and dated by another hand as circa 1770. The remaining 39 pages are in English and attributable to his sons and successors in his practice. They are not reproduced as part of this website.[4]

Despite the author's French Huguenot origin, none of the text is in French, although Latin is used in a trilingual introductory inventory of plant, animal and mineral substances. The English title page lists four parts, as follows:

I. "The Theory and Practice of Pharmacy"
II. "A Distribution of Medicinal Simples, According to their Virtues and Sensible Qualities -- The Description, Use and Dose of Each Article "
III. "Directions for Extemporaneous Prescription with a select Number of Elegant Forms with the Astralis and Other Diseases in General"
IV. "With a Instruction, How to Judge the Diseases by the Urine and the Knowledge of the Pulse Beating; For the Use of Mankind"

This table of contents would indicate discrete sections, but is more of a general or indeed intended overview of content than a specific sequential outline. This was most recently noted by John Crellin (1997), but even earlier, in 1953 by a previous reader, a Dr. Douglas McFarlan, whose was equally puzzled by the early 18th century lack of proper editorial progression.[5]

To begin with, the wording of the German and English title pages differs and supports our assumption of different but substantively comparable and compatible sources used instead of a consistent translation from German into English or English into German. Section I in English is entitled "The Theory and Practice of Pharmacy," while a more literal rendering of the German is "theoretical and practical chymical preparations." In Section III, we have "Directions for Extemporaneous Prescription with a select Number of Elegant Forms with the Astralis and Other Diseases in General," while the German promises "Instructions and descriptions of many medicinal preparations or composita, including their virtues and the diseases in which they may help. In particular, astral accidents and painful chronic maladies." It turns out that the title of Section I and the more ornamental English heading for Section III actually use terminology from the various English language pharmacopoias and dispensatories that served as a source for some of the material, and which we discuss below. The ten-page standard Appendix on women's complaints -- largely pre and perinatal -- that follows upon Section III is not mentioned in the table of contents. It may have been added later, and a short version of this section is in the Cassell collection of the papers of the Sauer printing house at The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.[6]

Altogether, however, neither the German nor the English table adequately describes the content, and the duplicative numbering of several parts and sections suggests not just an eclectic approach but a compilation of disparate elements being pulled together for reference and eventual publication. The whole manuscript is divided imperfectly into several portions: an introduction in German only, a trilingual list of drugs (materia medica), bilingual instructions for preparing drugs (a formulary), and a long bilingual section on treating diseases that is roughly alphabetical by disease, with various Paracelsian intrusions and additions. These will be discussed in some detail below, concentrating on the English version of the manuscript, to which a modern transcription is attached on this website.


In the following, we provide an overview of manuscript structure and content based on a close reading of the English manuscript component, supplemented by reference to the German where required, and relying on our understanding of known sources and context.

Front matter. Following the facing title pages is a five-page, unpaginated German-only introduction (reproduced in our imaged version but like most other German material not transcribed) in which the author sets forth a highly syncretic hierarchy of diseases -- from divinely ordained plagues to treatable diseases caused by a harmful environment and diet -- and an inversely related probability of the usefulness and even permissibility of intervention. The framework here reflects one major tenor of this heterogeneous manuscript and would seem to be an attempt to combine Paracelsian and post-Paracelsian definitions of original substances, set in a frame of cosmic correspondences.

In fact, reader beware: This is not a factual account of this author's medical career, but a borrowing, with some place names inserted, from a Paracelsian template (Johann Hayne's Drey unterschiedliche neue Tractätlein, 1620, 1663, 1700 and other editions) that is also used in Parts 3 and 4. What is notable in our context is de Benneville's careful omission of all references to classical and humanist authority -- the medical canon -- which abound in a very similar introduction found in the 1763 Frankfurt edition by Johannes Schroeder, the noted chymiatric author. Both versions use the course of the planets to support signs and symptoms of disease and healing processes, but the copious reliance on heathen authors -- Greek, Latin, Arab -- embraced by the humanists in perpetuating and synthesising classical legacies was omitted in the Medicina Pensylvania, in line with radical Christian practice of the 17th and 18th century.

This German introduction is followed by a 15-folio unpaginated double faced inventory of substances entitled materia medicamentum, set out in three columns, one each for Latin, German and English, and listing the various materia medica from the plant, animal, and mineral kingdoms, grouped according to the type of their systemic effect, from cephalia and carminativa to strenghteners and astringents. This is an entirely traditional and pragmatic listing both in terms of physiological indicators and in taxonomy (compare, for example, Quincy's 1720 Pharmacopoia extemporalis and extemporaneae), followed by a comparative table of apothecaries weights and abbreviations. The Matteria Medicamentum section begins with a German-only title page that indicates that the drug inventory will be divided into materials derived from animals, minerals, and plants, in that order. (The inventory itself reverses this order into the more standard sequence of plants, animals, and minerals.) Next comes a bilingual, Latin-German inventory of traditional classes of drugs, grouped according to therapeutic effect, in two columns, with headings corresponding roughly to the major formularies of the time. Examples are Vulneraria or drugs to be used to heal wounds, Emetica or drugs that provoke vomiting, and Sternutatoria or drugs that cause the patient to sneeze. The subsequent list itself is generally trilingual, with drugs listed under these traditional categories, alphabetically in Latin in the left hand column, with a middle and right hand column providing German and English drug names, respectively. Within each category, for example drugs for the nerves and head -- Nervina & Cephalica/ Nerven und Hauptstärckenden Blätter/ Nervina and Cephalic -- materials are subclassed by their physical origin, namely whether they come as leaves, seeds, resins, minerals, animal parts, etc. An example under this main heading, under the subheading Semina/Saamen/Seeds, is Sinapios/Senff/Mustard, indicating that mustard seed was useful for making drugs to treat the head and nerves. Drugs are repeated under different headings if they are used in different therapeutical circumstances.

In this introductory section, dosages are generally omitted and only given for the classes of purgatives and anodynes, which comprise highly toxic vegetable and metallic preparations such as Black Hellebore, Opium, White Vitriol, and Antimony. The urgency of adding these precautions, possibly at a late stage of manuscript preparation, is suggested by the fact that the trilingual correspondence in these sections breaks down, with the result that the heading for Vomits and Purges is given in English only, with the drugs listed in Latin; under the Latin heading Anodyna (Anodynes), we find drugs listed in Latin with dosages in grains, as expected, but under the corresponding second column Schmertzstillende Mittel, different drugs are again given in Latin, but with dosages in drops. And in the right hand, normally English language column, under the heading "To ease pains" the description is in German. These are the most obvious departures from the formal trilingual structure in this section.

Following the materia medica are 2 facing folios with standard pages of apothecaries weights and abbreviations. [Table of weights]

The Formulary. This is the main body of the manuscript and the most accessible and instructive in terms of the practice of colonial medicine and pharmacy. It is a facing page, German and English formulary, beginning with a section labeled "Præparationes Simpliciores / Simple Preparations." We note several points: The initial and elaborate subheads for simples are not carried through for the composita, although the heads do appear on the individual pages. Second, the pagination in the manuscript for this section follows a logical but non-standard system where the facing pages are labeled with the same number, but the one on the left, the English page, is identified as the verso and the one on the right, the German, as the recto. (See the Technical Notes for the implications of this numbering scheme for a continuous page count). Typically, headings and entries are given in Latin on both pages, accompanied by an English or German translation as appropriate. The exceptions are the sections on Tartars and the Uroscopy, where only German and English headings are used.

Simples comprise drugs that occur naturally in the form in which they are used therapeutically, unmixed with other simples, but requiring some preparation. Preparations vary from the relatively simple heat-drying of toads until they are suitable for grinding into a powder (Prepared Toads) to preservation of plant matter in sugar (Candied Eryngo roots), and extraction of resins and juices. Next is a section on oils extracted by pressing, distillation, boiling, and steeping. While simples in the sense that these are uncompounded extracts, the processing often involves mixture with other materials to assist in the extraction process, so they are categorized separately. Sections on other sorts of preparations follow, varying from the calcining of plant, animal, and mineral matter to produce salts and the chemical preparation of metallic and mineral simples such as Mars Diaphoreticus (an iron-based preparation), to traditional sections on "Waters," "Vinegars," and "Wines". Many of these are compounded drugs, and many feature antimony and mercury mixtures.

The number of drugs identified as "Tinctures," for example Tincture of Black Hellebore, is a striking characteristic of the de Benneville formulary and support the remedies listed later on. These run naturally out of the category "Wines," but many of them are clearly no longer prepared from one simple animal, vegetable, or mineral source. For example, Viper Wine is compounded of vipers, cinnamon, saffron, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and sugar candy, all dissolved in wine. These are followed by a specific category, Tincturæ Spirituosæ or Spiritous Tinctures, which comprises extracts made by digesting prepared plant, animal, and mineral materials in alcohol, sometimes redistilling the mixtures to concentrate them or extract their volatile essences. Many of these tinctures are identified by their intended therapeutic uses, such as Balsamic Tincture Febrifuge (Tr. B. Febrifugus), or Balsamic Tincture for use in Gonorrhoea (Tr. B. Gonorrhoeum), but other names indicate chief contents, for example Balsamic Tincture of Honey (Tr. B. Mellis) or Tincture of Liquorice (Tr. Liquorice), which contains not only liquorice stick, but also fennel seed.

Pills, powders, unguents, enemas, and gargles round out this section and are likewise usually identified by therapeutic use (e.g. emollient, strengthening) or by chief contents. The final pages of the formulary include remaining diverse preparations and methods of delivering drugs, including suppositories, pessaries, injections, water baths, vapor baths, and a surgical procedure known as the Sataceum, in which an incision is made in the skin of the neck and fitted with a wick to keep it from healing and by which "humors" can be drawn out of the head.

Models and antecedents for the Formulary

The formulary section on the preparation of medicinal simples and composita reflects 18th century dispensatory usage. To a point, it follows fairly closely the 1753 New Dispensatory of William Lewis, although buttressed here and there by more direct quotes from Quincy's 1720 and 1737 edition of the London Pharmacopoia and Lewis' 1749 edition of the Edinburgh Pharmacopoia. We have looked at numerous 17th century German and French pharmacopoias and dispensatories, but found no closer or more obvious model. From the sources freely and extensively acknowledged by Lewis and Quincy in support of their choices and definitions, it is clear that they and thus the Medicina Pensylvania drew upon the wide range of European 17th and early 18th century formularies. More importantly, the particular format used by Lewis is replicated to a good extent in both the German and the English versions of the formulary comprising Part II. It is this relatively modern and economical format that suggests the Lewis text as a model and partial template. This in turn indicates a full awareness on the part of the author or authors of the Medicina Pensylvania of the current state of the art and the expectations of the medical dispensing community in the colonies.

A major exception to this pattern are the salts, tinctures, and other more complex chemical preparations (these start at running p. 064 or fol. 013, Sales). Here, the English often turns poor and awkward, suggesting the author's preference, based on his presumed continental training, for original, largely German sources. For these recipes, we have numerous candidates, most prominently Johann Schroeder's multi-edition Pharmacopoia physica and the 1663 edition of the Augsburg Pharmacopoia with Johann Zwelfer's commentary.[7] This raises a new set of questions of language and pharmaceutical preferences. Both Schroeder and Zwelfer originally wrote in Latin and then were translated into the High-German in numerous and ever expanding versions.[8] But we found in none of these other sources a parallel to the very efficient Lewis format -- who more or less had poured old wine into new and very serviceable bottles.

Language offers another clue to the precedence of one version over the other. As noted, in the sections on simples, both sequence and language closely follow the 1753 Lewis New Dispensatory. The German may possibly have used a 1768-72 German translation published in Hamburg (Brandt, 1768-72, see Cowen, 2001). Remnants of German and even French forms are evident in not fully concordant parts of the English version, pointing to the author's European training or perhaps his source texts. Some of these sources have been identified, or a range of sources narrowed, but the eclectic nature of the material and its presentation mean that perfect identification of source texts is unlikely in most instances.[9]

Paracelsian pathology -- astralis diseases and cures and tartars and their cures

If the Medicina Pensylvania had stopped at the end of the simples and composita section, after about 66 numbered folios, we could comfortably say that both this presumably German trained Huguenot emigre and his apothecary and dispensing colleagues agreed that a bilingual recepture was required to guide an audience of colonial medical men of both English and German backgrounds. But as John Crellin suggested when we started working on this manuscript in the 1990s (Crellin, 1997), there is a heavy overload of Paracelsian and other chymiatric baggage, which finds its place and even becomes dominant in several of the following sections.

Beginning with folio 66 starts Part III "Directions for Extemporaneous Prescription with a select Number of Elegant Forms with the Astralis and Other Diseases in General". This is a long portion on diseases and remedies, subdivided into three parts: "Astral" diseases and remedies (ff. 66-68), "Tartarous" diseases and remedies (ff. 68-76), and a long alphabetical listing of other kinds of diseases and remedies (ff. 77-117). The first two of these draw on concepts of pathology that have moved into the historical domain of medicine and require something of an explanation. In our manuscript, both astral and tartarous diseases are paraphrased from the now obscure German treatise noted above, which was possibly written in Latin in the late sixteenth century but published in the seventeenth: Johann Hayne's Drey unterschiedliche neue Tractätlein (1620, 1663, 1700; for the medical and pharmaceutical sections, we have relied on the edition prefaced by famous chymiatric author and compiler, Johannes Schroeder, 1763).[10] It appears that the author of the Medicina Pensylvania went through Hayne's book and summarized key therapeutic indications while passing over its lengthy theoretical discussions. The concept of astral diseases and diseases caused by tartar presented here is Paracelsian in origin, sketched out in various treatises left by the itinerant German physician and religious and medical radical dissident, Theophrastus Paracelsus von Hohenheim (1493-1541), and elaborated by various followers, among whom we can place Johann Hayne. [11]

Briefly, Paracelsus taught that each human being is composed of three bodies and an immortal soul. The soul leaves the body at death. One body is elemental in composition, made from the dust of the world, and returns to dust after death. The second body is astral in origin, sometimes referred to as the astral body or the sidereal body, and returns to the stars after death. The third body, which might be called the 'resurrection body', is eternal, is received though baptism and nourished through participation in the Lord's Supper, and is eventually joined with the soul in the last days of the world, permitting the resurrection of the body and eternal salvation. Paracelsus intended this three-body scheme as a rational solution to problems that arose in Biblical exegesis, but it had consequences for his medical followers.

Paracelsian pathology pertained to the first two bodies, the elemental and the sidereal, which were material and spiritual in nature, respectively. Thus, when the author of Medicina Pensylvania draws on the first treatise of Hayne's book to describe "astralis" diseases and remedies, he is referring to diseases that afflict the spiritual body and are caused principally by the influence or "impressions" that the planets were thought to exert on the human body and its constituent organs and parts. This pattern of astral or planetary influences was commonplace in medieval European medicine, but adapted by the Paracelsians to the concept of the human sidereal body. In the Medicina Pensylvania the doctrine is greatly simplified, but the medieval conception is readily recognized: the Moon causes diseases of the brain, Venus governs the sexual parts and is implicated in venereal diseases, Mercury governs diseases of the lungs, and so on. Recipes for drugs to combat diseases caused by these planetary influences are also extracted from Hayne's treatise, sometimes with slight alterations in ingredients and amounts.

Part Two of this section of the Medicina Pensylvania draws on the second treatise of Hayne's book, which is devoted to diseases caused by tartar. Tartar was the name that Paracelsus and subsequent writers gave to the stone-like residue that built up on the inside of wine barrels, which was regarded as related to pathological stony and gravelly deposits in human bodies. These were implicated in serious and difficult to treat diseases common in early modern Europe, including bladder and kidney blockages, gout, and lung diseases.

A more general nosography and list of cures

Part Third of the Tabella returns us to the general medicine of the early modern period, the "other diseases" not caused by the planetary influences or tartar build-up. Beginning on folio 76, middle of page, to folio 117, the gamut of common and not so common complaints begins with Abortieren zu praeventieren, or To Prevent Abortions, and sets out in more or less alphabetical order in Latin (which guides the alphabetical order in almost all instances) and, respectively, English and German, complaints and conditions and their single or multiple treatments: We go from adephagia and its helminthic indications, Amor insanus or raging love, angina of the throat, apoplexy, hemorrhoids and bloody urine, lues veneria, and marasmus senilis senectus, or the unavoidable consuming of old age. ("..for which no perfict relief can be had") . Specific sources for this part of the manuscript have not been identified, although the compendium by Theodor Zwinger (1748) is a good candidate. The appendix section on women's complaints -- largely pre- and perinatal, with appropriate treatments -- also follows conventional patterns.

Compared to the astral and tartar diseases, which are foreign to the modern mind, the conditions identified in this section are relatively straightforward and, with the caution required in comparing disease entities across the centuries, are in many cases recognizable, such as constipation, fistula, gonorrhea, inflamed gums, and toothache. An abundance of remedies is proposed for each, mixing what is probably a good portion of the plant materia medica with chemiatric preparations such as a panacea of antimony. The use of chemiatric medications remains notable, but the abundance of herbal preparations should not be overlooked.

In terms of a colonial North American audience, the rich and often duplicative collection of therapeutic regimes in this section -- and in contrast to the formulary cum dispensatory in Part I -- suggests the remaining polypharmacy of the period. This may have reflected the compiler's preference or his desire to address a wider audience. The individual entries are replete with dosage instructions, counterindications, uses of phlebotomy, the use of teas, poultices and bedrest for depleted patients, and similar guidelines, many if not most oriented to the still prevailing humoral schemes of depletion, evacuation, and subsequent fortification. Phlebotomy was recommended , if with some degree of caution, expressly warning against its use in a number of specific instances, like the tartarous diseases, again reminiscent of 17th century proscriptions. Local North American substances like senega, snakeroot, and Ginseng are incorporated, but there is a complete absence of named proprietary medicines, whether German or English, in marked distinction to the practice of Abraham Wagner. Notable is the prevalence in this manuscript of relatively costly chemiatric preparations not suited for domestic manuals; the dangers of indiscriminate use of potent substances like "mercury, opium, and Peruvian bark..." had been noted as early as 1734 by Tennent, who excluded these substances from his Planter's Physician.[12]

A return to Paracelsian diagnostics

The final portion of the Medicina Pensylvania (pp. 137-149) is a manual of uroscopy. Uroscopy was an old diagnostic strategy, used for specific diagnosis and prognosis of diseases by examination of the patient's urine. This should logically have been the third part of the previous section of diseases and remedies, since it is drawn from the third treatise of Hayne's book. The title of this section also promises diagnosis by examination of the pulse as well as the urine, which is a common pairing in medieval commentaries, but in fact de Benneville never got around to treating pulse-diagnosis, instead restricting himself to a summary extraction and translation from Hayne, who likewise did not enter into a discussion of the pulse.

Paracelsus was critical of traditional uroscopy, but that did not stop him and his followers from modifying it to fit his chemical theories of pathology and therapeutics and incorporate it into tartar theory. Uroscopy in this tradition, where the urine was held to reflect the condition of the various digestions in the body and thus reflect the state of tartar build-up, was taken up by Johann Hayne, whence it made its way into the eighteenth-century Medicina Pensylvania of an American colonial physician. That de Benneville was relying on Hayne or some intervening text that closely mirrored the Hayne is evident from the chart that de Benneville encloses, which is based on several fold-out charts in Hayne's book and also summarizes information presented in associated text. On f. 139 we find a chart comprising a set of linked columns [view chart]. One summarizes signs observable in the urine and gives diagnostic interpretations. The others list components of the human body, an early modern, Paracelsian variant on the "seven natural things" that typified medieval Galenic theory: Here they are earth and water, from which come nutriment and tartar; fire and air, which provide spirits; human seed; the four elements; the seven sidereal spirits; the four Galenic complexions, the four Galenic humors; and the seven principal organs. The last column connects the complexions to the qualities to the Hippocratic flavors (salty, sweet, bitter, and sour), which are erroneously labeled humors. (This chart combines material appearing in the 1663 Hayne edition as two separate fold-out charts.)


Overall, we are faced with a rich, layered if heterogeneous manuscript. It offers medical resources from multiple sources to a mixed audience of English and German users and readers. The sections on materia medica and the preparation of simples and composita reflect the sharing of practices among experienced pharmacists or dispensing physicians relying on the accrued and traditional materia medica of the 18th century. That none of the material is specifically attributed to its sources was not a rarity at a time less concerned with specific authorial merit than with the continuation and persistence of tradition and does not detract from its purpose. Although the manuscript as now extant is uniform in script and apparently was prepared by a professional scribe, including check marks and occasional strange misspellings, we do not know whether the disparate sections were accumulated over the decades of the author's Philadelphia practice from roughly 1750 to 1780, who put them together, who determined the final sequence, and if, finally, this was a document for sharing among professionals or intended for eventual publication. The manuscript is so professionally prepared and carefully checked as to concordance between the English and the German versions that the intent to publish for a growing public of physicians and pharmacists seems inescapable at first glance. But publishing resources were few and prohibitively expensive for complex, font dependent manuscripts in the precolonial and postcolonial period. It may thus be more reasonable to assume that the author had originally commissioned this work for immediately practical purposes, such as a reference and work copy or copies available at a place of pharmaceutical production with a bilingual production staff, such as the reputedly large and profitable pharmacy on the commercial riverfront in Philadelphia.[13]


  1. According to Allen Viehmeyer, the original French autobiography is no longer extant and it may, like parts of the Medicina Pensylvania, have been taken from a template. Two published English versions are de Benneville, George. Life and Trance of Dr. George De Benneville, of Germantown, Pa. An Account of What He Saw and Heard During a Trance of Forty-Two Hours, Both in the Regions of Happiness and Misery; Together with a Short Account of His Cruel Persecutions in France for Preaching the Gospel. Translated from the French of His Own Manuscript. Schwenksville, Penna.: N. Bertolet Grubb, 1882, and ---. A True and Most Remarkable Account of Some Passages in the Life of Mr. George de Benneville, of an Ancient and Noble Protestant Family in Normandy, [Who is Now, or Lately Was Living in Pennsylvania]. Translated from the French of His Own Manuscript, by Elhanan Winchester. ... To Which is Prefixed a Preface by the Translator. ... London: "Sold by the editor at his house, and at the chapel, Glasshouse-Yard, 1791." For a more reliable account, see Durnbaugh, Donald F. Fruit of the Vine. A History of the Brethren, 1708-1995. Elgin, Il: Brethren Press, 1997. An older biographical source is Albert D.Bell, The Life and Times of Dr. George de Benneville, 1703-1793, 1953, published on the 250th anniversary of de Benneville's birth, which is mainly concerned with religious aspects of de Benneville's life and his family history.
  2. Most of his writings on these matters are at the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center in several volumes of mixed religious and chymical writings now being catalogued. They include "Tinctura Universalis. Transmutation der Metallen," VR 42-42, and "Umb Eisen zu Stahl zu Machen Durch Fermentation(?)," de Benneville microfilm. For the German and transatlantic context of radical spiritualist writers whom de Benneville and the Sauer family apparently frequented, see Schrader, Hans-Jürgen, 1989. Literaturproduktion und Büchermarkt des radikalen Pietismus: Johann Heinrich Reitz. "Historie Der Wiedergebohrnen" und ihr geschichtlicher Kontext (1989).
  3. Isaac and Moses Bartram, sons of the famous Quaker and botanist John Bartram, were well known apothecaries in Philadelphia, owning two pharmacies off Race Street close to the Delaware docks. Moses was first a partner of Thomas Say, and then ran the pharmacy on 2nd Street together with his brother. Say and Bartram advertised in the Pennslyvania Gazette on May 20, 1756, and Moses and Isaac Bartram at the same site in February 1760 and January 1762. For a commentary on the galenicals and chymicals sold there, see Elenanora G. Baird, Moses Bartram's Account Book, 1778-1788, Bartram's Broadside, Spring 2003. There also is an account book of Isaac Bartram in the archives of the William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan. The project is much indebted to Joel Fry, Curator, Bartrams Gardens, for this and related information.
  4. These final pages return us again to solid North American practice. They were probably written by a son, George de Benneville, Jr. (b. 1760), and grandson. The son's name appears as a proprietary signature in several sections of the manuscript. These final pages comprise chapbook notes on medical and other events, and are written in a coarser and more hurried script. They do not continue the structured and bilingual presentations of the bulk of the manuscript.
  5. Douglas Mcfarlan, "Medicina Pensylvania or the Pennsylvania Physician. M/S by George de Benneville, Sr." Call number 10c/115, College of Physicians.
  6. The manuscript is untitled and noted as AC. 988 in the Cassel Collection of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. See also the bibliographic entry and p. 10 in William Woys Weaver, ed. and transl. Sauer's Herbal Cures, America's First Book of Botanic Healing, 1762-1778. Routledge, 2001. I thank Donald Durnbaugh, Juniata College, for bringing this material to my attention.
  7. We owe both suggestions to Wolf-Dieter Müller-Jahnke and a doctoral student of his.
  8. Here and elsewhere we use the term High German to denote Schriftdeutsch, which increasingly assumed a major role in medical printing alongside the customary Latin. Although occasional regional differences can be noted, in particular in the names of plants and animals, this became the highly standardized literary and increasingly the scientific language of the 18th century.
  9. de Lemery's Pharmacopoia and Cours de Chymie likewise do not suggest a direct model, although there are too many editions in both French and English to permit a firm conlusion without further study. We noted some specific judgmental similarities, such as the relative disdain of the medical qualities of tinctures of gold. Note that however de Benneville offers about four of these tinctures.
  10. We thank the Wellcome Library for permission to use this material and Hal Cook for providing a microfilm.
  11. The selected readings in the section containing bibliographic material contain a number of references to the secondary literature on Paracelsian medicine, which is vast. For the tartars, see in particular Pagel, 1958.
  12. Tennent, Every Man His Own Doctor. The quote is on p. 39 in John Harley Warner and Janet A Tighe, eds, Major Problems in the History of American Medicine and Public Health, Houghton Mifflin, 2001.
  13. We owe this suggestion to James Green of the Library Company in Philadelphia, to whom we are much indebted for this and other advice and comment.

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