Poisons 101: a 19th-century American guide

Thomas R[ussell] Crosby, M. D., CHART OF POISONS. For the Use of Families and Physicians. Boston, 1846.
Lithographic broadside chart, printed area 30”h x 20 1/8”w plus generous margins, uncolored.

A fascinating guide to toxicology by New Hampshire physician Thomas Crosby, useful to doctors, families, and presumably also poisoners and coroners.

The broadside is laid out as a table, with columns describing 47 substances poisonous when consumed internally, offering “remarks,” and describing “symptoms,” “treatment,” “appearances after death,” and “tests” for each. Poisons covered include the familiar (arsenic, deadly nightshade, hemlock); the archaic and unfamiliar (oils of cedar, rue, savin, tansy, tar and vitriol); and the titillating (“blistering flies,” aka Spanish Fly). Four short columns at the bottom describe “external poisons,” “suspended animation” (due to drowning &c.), “emetics,” and “mucilages.”

Author Thomas Crosby (1816-1872) was a native of Gilmanton, New Hampshire. He received his medical degree from Dartmouth in 1842 and opened a practice in Manchester. He soon fell victim to “lead poison in its worst form, and for ten years he suffered all the indescribable tortures of distorted joints, painters colic, and broken health generally.” He recovered sufficiently to return to practice as well as begin a teaching career, and during the Civil War he ran the Columbian College Hospital, near Washington, D.C. with great distinction. His particular academic interest was “chemistry as applied to agriculture,” though whether this interest was a cause or effect of his lead poisoning is not clear.

OCLC lists 7 institutional holdings, plus a lone impression of a purported 1841 edition at Dartmouth (Aug. 2016).


Removed from pocket folder and flattened, with repairs and restorations along folds, including facsimile to some lost text. Original boards separated but present.