Medicine & Anatomy

Fleming, Alexander | Penicillin: Its Practical Application

  • First edition, first printing of "the only book that Fleming prepared regarding his discovery of the antibiotic properties of penicillin" (Norman 800). This copy with a humorous contemporary gift inscription likely from one doctor to another: “The Quack, In the hope that it may instil a little medical knowledge. [J. P. or D.?] 16/7/46”.

    Fleming made his discovery in 1928 and published his earliest paper on penicillin in 1929. But the substance was difficult to purify, and did not become available in large quantities until Howard Florey and Ernest Chain successfully mass-produced it at the beginning of the Second World War. It was during the conflict that penicillin proved its worth, successfully treating hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers.

    This volume was published shortly after the war. The expectation was that penicillin would soon be available commercially, but "there was not yet an authoritative British book for the guidance of the practitioner in its use" (preface). It contains an introduction by Fleming on his discovery of penicillin and twenty-six other essays on the history, manufacture, and clinical use of the drug by "experienced and eminent men" who were among the earliest to experiment with and prescribe it. A key work on one of the most significant medical breakthroughs of the 20th century, published while the therapy was still "very young and rapidly evolving" (preface).

    Bibliography: Norman Library of Science & Medicine 800, Printing and the Mind of Man 420, Garrison-Morton 1933.

  • London: Butterworth & Co., Ltd., 1946.

    Octavo. Original green cloth, titles to spine gilt. Numerous diagrams and illustrations within the text. Contemporary gift inscription in ink to the front pastedown. Spine slightly rolled, cloth rubbed and marked with some faint dampstain to the upper board, lower corner bumped, short closed tears in the upper margins of pages 311-314 not affecting text. A very good copy.