"To all young practioners"

The Practice of New and Old Physicke was published in 1599 and written by Conrad Gessner.  You'll first notice the type, a font different than the more modern books in this collection.

Conrad Gessner was a Swiss naturalist and believed in the return to the study of natural science through observation; he was arguably the greatest naturalist of his age.  This was a time when what constitued as science included a broad range of topics, which meant Gessner had experience in all areas, from metallurgy to zoology.

This particular work of his includes mostly instructions on all types of distillations: water, oils, balms, as well as the extraction of salts and potable gold.  The science of “making gold” was a major element of scientific pursuits (pun intended) that spilled over from the Medieval ages—alchemy to be exact.

This edition was printed in London by Peter Short.

In A Little History of Science, William Bynum tells us “…laboratories were where alchemists worked.  Alchemy has a long history, stretching back to ancient Egypt, China, and Persia.  The aim of alchemists was not always simply to change less valuable (“base”) metals into gold: it was also to exert power over nature, to be able to control the things that surround us…The alchemist experimented with substances, to see what happened when things had violent reactions, like phosphorous and mercury.”