August 2014 Book of the Month: Medicatrix by Mary Trye (1675)

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Title-page of Medicatrix: Fellows’ Library R.3.32 Gall (© Jesus College, Oxford)

Medicatrix is a rare example of a medical text written by a woman in the early modern period. It is a dogged vindication of the medical practices and political beliefs of her father, Thomas O’Dowde.

The book opens with a strategic dedication to Jane Lane, Lady Fisher, a Royalist heroine who enabled Charles II’s escape at the end of the English Civil War. O’Dowde was a fervent Royalist whose imprisonment and torture by Oliver Cromwell is recounted in Trye’s narrative. He later attempted to found a Society of Chemical Physicians to rival the more traditionalist, University-based, and parliamentarian Royal College of Physicians.

Medical practices were urgently debated during the 1665-1666 Great Plague of London. Henry Stubbe, O’Dowde’s adversary, advocated the use of phlebotomy—blood-letting—and left the metropolis to avoid infection. In contrast, Trye and O’Dowde prescribed ‘chemical’ cures and remained in London, where O’Dowde himself died of the disease.

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Advertisement end matter: Fellows’ Library R.3.32 Gall (© Jesus College, Oxford)

This copy of Medicatrix is one of only nine known to survive. Printed inexpensively, it doubles as advertisement: the final eight pages list Trye’s medications.

Anna Thomas (Graduate Library Trainee, 2012–13)

 

Sources and further reading:

  • Catalogue record on SOLO
  • Cook, Harold J., ‘Mary Trye’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004.
  • Linden, Stanton J., ‘Mrs. Mary Trye, Medicatrix: Chemistry and Controversy in Restoration England’, Women’s Writing 1.3 341-353, 1994.
  • Mcgrath, Lynette, ‘The Other Body: Women’s Inscription of their Physical Images in 16th- and 17th-century England’, Women’s Studies 26.1 27-58, 1997.
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