Treasure 48: Erasmus Darwin’s prescription notebooks

These notebooks are a series of medical practice records, covering the 1740s to 1780s.  Each entry deals with an individual patient, recording symptoms and treatment. It’s clear that there is more than one style of handwriting in the books, but we believe the later entries to be the work of Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) who moved to Derby in 1783.

They are nominated by our Assistant Conservator, Clare, who repaired them over the course of a year – all 1316 pages!  Clare says: “It was an extremely satisfying project to do even if there were occasions when I was still repairing them in my sleep…”

Here’s what was prescribed for Thomas Bamford of Ticknall, who was suffering from cramps:


Two drachms of Gammoniacum To ss. pint of penny royal water.  Two spoonfulls occasionally repeated.  January the 15th.  When the pains return to loose some blood, and then take at one dose a Quarter of a Pint of common Sallad oil, after an hour or two if the pain continues.  Take one Pill, and repeat it every hour till the pain ceases or till he has taken four.

At the intervals of his pain he should take one of the 2nd Box Pills every nights.

Small beer posset drink made by mixing equal parts of beer and milk warm, then taking off the Curd and 15 Drops of Laudanum in it every night.  Jan[uary] 27th Six powders Rhubarb 15 grs. Ginger.  19. Infusion. z ii Marshmallow root boild to one

4 thoughts on “Treasure 48: Erasmus Darwin’s prescription notebooks

  1. Pingback: Twitter Digest for August | Derbyshire Record Office

  2. Pingback: UK Medical Treasures: Erasmus Darwin's Prescription book, Derbyshire Record Office - Health Archives and Records Group

  3. I’m afraid I can’t say exactly what year, because not all entries are dated and the volume is arranged alphabetically by patient – on some pages relating to patients undergoing treatment for longer periods, you can actually see the second, less neat, handwriting (where the second doctor, Darwin as we think, took over). However, entries on nearby pages have dates from 1779 to 1783, so it is very unlikely to be either of the men you mention. One of those nearby pages is for “Bamford’s daughter” – I can only assume that’s the daughter of this Thomas Bamford. She was treated for sore neck and eyes (given a plaster for her neck, and rose water and elderflower water for the eyes), but again there’s no date. A little titbit that might help, though, is the word “Methodist” written in large letters at the bottom of the entry. Why would that make a difference from the doctor’s point of view, I wonder? Perhaps because she was also prescribed one spoonful of brandy, and may have expressed reservations on religious grounds. Anyhow, it might make a difference if you are looking for baptism/burial entries. We hold a record of the registration of a Methodist Meeting House in Ticknall dating from 1792 (Q/RR/12/42) but our earliest Ticknall Methodist baptism records only go back as far as 1817, and come from the Wesleyan chapel founded in 1815 (M/695 – RG 4/1084).

  4. It would be interesting to know what year this prescription was given. There were two Thomas Bamfords in Ticknall during the “1740s to 1780s” period:
    – Thomas Bamford Senr of Repton Liberty was buried at St George’s parish churchyard, Ticknall on 4 Jan 1742
    – Thomas Bamford (presumably his son) lso of Repton Liberty, was buried in Ticknall on 30 May 1762.
    Regards, Brett Payne

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