Preface of the English Editors.

The Second Part of the Second Volume of the Materia Medica of the late Dr. Pereira now laid before the profession, brings to a completion the third edition of this valuable work. [The first part of Volume Second was published in London, before the decease of the author.] In executing the difficult task of completing that which had been so ably commenced by the lamented author, the editors have endeavoured to act in accordance with his views, as embodied in a large collection of notes and memoranda which were entrusted to them for this purpose.

They have, on their own responsibility, made such alterations and additions as the present state of science appeared, in their judgment, to render necessary; and the changes made in the preparations of the London and Dublin Pharmacopoeias since the publication of the previous edition have been duly noticed.

At the time of his decease, the learned author had so far advanced with the present volume as to have completed the description of that important article of the materia medica, Cinchona. The remainder of the volume has passed under the revision of the editors; and it may be proper to state that they have in no case interfered with the views or opinions of the author: but, when circumstances rendered it necessary, they have added, in brackets or in notes, such remarks as appeared to them requisite for the further elucidation of the subject. For some assistance in the performance of this duty, they feel bound to express their obligations to Mr. Jacob Bell and to Mr. Daniel Hanbury.

Mr. Bell freely placed at their disposal the numerous papers contributed by the late Dr. Pereira to the pages of the Pharmaceutical Journal.

It will be perceived that the present edition of this standard scientific work has assumed an entirely new shape. The Mineral substances of the materia medica have been confined to the first, and the Organic substances to the second volume. Considerable additions have been made to both departments: but the Organic Materia Medica has been especially enlarged. The additions comprise four hundred pages of new matter; and the articles of materia medica, of which a complete medical and scientific history is given, amount to three hundred and sixty. Of the value of the matter thus contributed to the medical literature of the day the Editors at liberty to speak, since the author is now no more, and they have merely aided in carrying out his views in one small portion of this elaborate treatise. Their opinion is the expression of the opinion of the whole profession, both in this and foreign countries—namely, that in copiousness of details, in extent, variety, and accuracy of information, and in lucid explanation of difficult and recondite subjects, it surpasses all other works on Materia Medica hitherto published. The history of a drug, as it is given in these volumes, is not a dry description of its physical characters and its medicinal uses.

Philology, Natural History, Botany, Chemistry, Physics, and the Microscope, are all brought forward to elucidate the subject; and the reader thus acquires a full scientific knowledge of each article of materia medica before he is introduced to a description of its effects on plants, animals, and man, or to the various theories of its operation, and the different uses to which it has been applied in ancient and modern times. In illustration of this statement, we refer to Article 232, on Cinchona, the last which passed under the hand of the author. This article, when taken alone, displays an amount of scientific knowledge, a degree of industry in the collection of facts, and a judgment in selecting and describing them, which it is rare to meet with in one individual. In treating of the properties of the Cinchona alkaloids, it will be observed that even the abstruse subject of epipolization, or the internal dispersion of light, as a test for quina, has not escaped his notice.

It was a peculiar feature in the writings of the author—one which is stamped upon every page of this treatise—that he was not satisfied until he had thoroughly exhausted the subject. His references to ancient and modern writers are constant and numerous; he goes to all sources which are capable of yielding information, and fairly acknowledges his obligations to those by whose learning, experience, or research, he profits. He has thus succeeded in transforming the substance of an unpretending course of lectures into a complete Encyclopaedia of Materia Medica. We entertain no doubt that the present edition will be found to add to that high reputation which, while living, the author had acquired by his researches in this important branch of medical science.


London, September, 1853.

The Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, Vol. II, 3th American ed., was written by Jonathan Pereira in 1854.