Rennes, [J. du Clos] for P. Le Bret 1578.
4to. [xvi], 190 [r. 202], [2 blank]p. and TWO FOLDING PLATES WITH LETTERPRESS AND WOODCUTS. One nearly full-page chiromantic woodcut, two divisional title-pages, a Le Bret anchor device on the main and second divisional title (dated 1577).
Contemporary vellum (soiled and stained), later manuscript spine title, evidence of four pigskin ties, slightly overlapping edges, ruled in red.
Only Antiquarian Edition: “The Demosterion provides the most extensive documentation of early French Paracelsianism” (Baudry, tr.). Half in French and half in Latin, its six parts present, in order, a short introduction to Paracelsian doctrine, a distillation of its principles into three hundred bilingual aphorisms, a work on divination, a dictionary of Paracelsian terms, a chiromantic essay and a balneological and mineralogical description of Brittany. Together, the texts address alchemy, geomancy, astrology, ethics, dietetics, physiology, pathology and cures for ulcers, leprosy, edema, plague, gout and paralysis.
Schematic, the first plate is dated 1 December 1578. It outlines the method for determining which remedy cures which ailment according to Paracelsian principles. The large woodcut of the second plate has seven rings that present the movement of the Moon through a sidereal month, that note enterprises and therapies favored on each day and indicate astrological influences and medical humors.
Enterprising, Le Baillif suffered prison time for currency counterfeiting and escaped assassination. He practiced and lectured in medicine in Paris, then was expelled, having crossed the University’s medical faculty. He returned to Brittany, amassed a fortune treating local nobility and published a stream of popular Paracelsian books and pamphlets. In the late 17th century, he was (and remains!) conflated with Jean Ribit, sieur de la Rivière (d. 1605) Henri IV’s personal physician, also a devout Paracelsian.
Complete and in good condition (ink spots on the plates), two contemporary title inscriptions (one dated 1579), 19th-century manuscript shelf labels.
¶Trevor-Roper, “The sieur de la Rivière, Paracelsian physician to Henri IV” in Science, Medicine, and Society in the Renaissance: Essays to honor W. Pagel ed. Debus (1972) II: 227-50; Baudry, Contribution à l’étude du paracelsisme en France au XVIe siècle (1560-1580)…Le Demosterion de Roch Le Baillif passim & 217,2; Sudhoff, Bibliographia paracelsica 181a n.; Caillet, Manuel bibliographique des sciences…occultes II: 6279; Duveen, Bibliotheca alchemica et chemica 343-4 “A very rare work”; Ferchl, Chemisch-pharmazeutisches Bio- und Bibliographikon 447; Durling, A Catalog of Sixteenth Century Printed Books in the National Library of Medicine 2746 (lacking both plates and some text); Brunet III: 897 “rare et curieux”.