Plato, Bacon and the Puritan Apothecary
The Case of Nicholas Culpeper
During the seventeenth century the London apothecaries, most of them Puritans, sought to destroy the control the London College of Physicians exercised over the practice of medicine in the capital. Cromwell's success in the Civil War gave the apothecaries the advantage in this fight, and the major weapon they used against the College was translation of the Latin professional literature into English and wide dissemination of the translations, which often included some very unbridled footnotes to embarass the College. The most important of these apothecary-translators was Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654). His practice in both medicine and translation is typical of the Puritan tradition in combining four influences: the philosophy of Francis Bacon, medieval interpretations of Ovid's account of Creation (Metamorphoses I.85), the Platonist flavour of medieval alchemy, and the Bible, particularly as translated by the Calvinists (the "Geneva Bible"). Culpeper was writing for a public that saw no distinction between secular and religious knowledge, and which took from Bacon and Seneca the conviction that polished language could not co-exist with truth. Thus his translation style, taken ultimately from the Puritan pulpit and schoolroom, is unadorned, accurate, and literal in that his versions respect the discourse order and content of the original.
Published online: 01 January 1989
Cited by 1 other publications
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Kelly, L.G.[ p. 109 ]
Pearcy, Lee T.