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Having served as a military surgeon in India, where he also pursued botanical research and investigated the efficacy of Hindu medicines, John Forbes Royle (1798–1858) went on to become a professor of materia medica at King's College, London. Acknowledging the need for a thorough yet manageable textbook on the subject, he published in 1847 this manual containing entries on the medicinal substances derived from minerals, plants and animals that were used in Britain at that time. The terminology, operations and aims of pharmaceutical practice are also addressed, and the differing preparations of the London, Edinburgh and Dublin pharmacopoeias are taken into account for the benefit of students. Furthermore, the work provides information on recently discovered medicines, 'as may be seen among the Preparations of Iron and of Gold, as well as in Matico, Indian Hemp, Bebeerine &c'.