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Daniel Foote, M.D., of Cambridge: The Evidence in Print and from the Sloane Collection

David Thorley (notes)

Abstract

This article introduces the physician and translator Daniel Foote (1629-1700), predominantly though his little-examined manuscripts in the Sloane Collection. Foote survives in the scholarly memory principally as the translator of the unpublished ‘Observations’ of Francis Mercury Van Helmont (1682) and sometimes as a contributor to a dispute in the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions about William Simpson’s Hydrologia Chymica (1669). It is largely forgotten that he was the translator of a published text, John Conrad Amman’s The Talking Deaf Man (1694), and scarcely acknowledged that a collection of over 30 manuscripts in his hand lie in the Sloane Collection. This article therefore provides an introduction to the contents of those manuscripts. The materials illuminate Foote’s education, reading, intellectual preferences, medical beliefs and religious convictions. They demonstrate that from the 1660s onwards, he translated prolifically and that, although the two Van Helmonts are the most frequently occurring subjects of his translations, his efforts were by no means confined to rendering works by those two. The Sloane manuscripts also include straightforward transcriptions of texts which existed in print (some difficult to obtain) and a collection of commonplace books containing notes on medicine, theology, logic, ethics, literature and the sermons Foote heard, offering insights into Foote’s reading and learning practices. Finally, the collection enables inferences about Foote’s mostly unnoticed religious identity, offering a portrait of varied theological reading and interests, but with an emphasis on non-conformity developing into an interest in Quakerism in the years following 1662 and the Great Ejection, of which he has been reported to have been a victim.

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