Rare Book Profile: Ensayo para la Materia Médica Mexicana.

Ensayo para la Materia Médica Mexicana  (Puebla : Oficina del Hospital de S. Pedro, a Cargo del C. Manuel Buen-Abad, 1832) was an early step towards the development of a Mexican pharmacopoeia including native materia medica. It was one of the earliest such efforts in all of Latin America.

A group of physicians and surgeons in Puebla formed the Academia Médico Quirúrgica de la Puebla de los Angeles in 1824 to promote the progress of medicine and related sciences in Mexico, in the same way academies fostered scientific progress in Europe. Mexican political independence, obtained in 1821,facilitated their work by making it easier to obtain foreign books.  The Academy’s first two publications were Tablas Botánicas para el mas pronto y fácil Estudio de la Ciencia by botanist and priest Julian Cervantes in  1825, and a translation of a work on dosage by French pharmacist Charles-Louis Cadet de Gassicourt in 1829. The first real Mexican pharmacopoeia was published in Mexico City in 1846.

A committee of the Academy, headed by pharmacist Don Antonio de Cal y Bracho, was formed to compile Ensayo para la Materia Médica Mexicana, a listing of both European and traditional Mexican remedies, which was published in 1832. The Ensayo para la Materia Médica Mexicana is an unillustrated alphabetical listing of plants and their uses, followed by very brief sections on animals and minerals, plus indexes and an appendix.  Plants are listed by common name and identified by Latin name. Many of the names, descriptions, and uses were taken from older sources, some as early as the sixteenth century. Notes in the entries keyed to a bibliography identify the sources. The compilers’ intention was that members of the Academy would test and evaluate the materials to revise and perfect the list.

The Health Sciences Library’s copy of Ensayo para la Materia Médica Mexicana was printed on blue-tinted paper.  It was donated to the Library by Dr. James J. Waring, and rebound in green leather with the title tooled on front and back covers in gilt by the library’s former director, Dr. Frank B. Rogers.

Rare materials are available to individuals or groups by appointment on Wednesday mornings and Thursday afternoons, or at other times by arrangement. To schedule an appointment, contact Emily Epstein, emily.epstein@ucdenver.edu or 303-724-2119.

[Emily Epstein, Cataloging Librarian]