Osler’s textbook was the best English work on medicine of its time. He became Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford in 1904. Besides being one of the greatest of all clinicians, he was possessed of a fine literary style and an extensive knowledge of medical bibliography. Garrison has written of him: “When he came to die, Osler was, in a very real sense, the greatest physician of our time … Good looks, distinction, blithe, benignant manners, a sunbright personality, radiant with kind feeling and good will toward his fellow men, an Apollonian poise, swiftness and surety of thought and speech, every gift of the gods was his; and to these were added careful training, unsurpassed clinical ability, the widest knowledge of his subject, the deepest interest in everything human, and a serene hold upon his fellows that was as a seal set upon them”.
For Osler’s own account of the preparation of his textbook, see the Bibliotheca Osleriana (No. 6772), item 3544. See also Richard L. Golden & Charles G. Roland, Sir William Osler: An annotated bibliography with illustrations, San Francisco, 1988, and Harvey Cushing’s Life of Sir William Osler, 2 vols., Oxford, 1925. Also see Harvey & McKusick, eds., Osler's textbook revisited (New York, 1967) and Richard L. Golden, A history of William Osler's Principles and Practice of medicine (Montreal, 2004).
Copies of the first issue of the first edition have the title of Plato's Socratic dialogue Gorgias misspelled "Georgias" (on the verso of the third leaf), and the publisher's advertisements dated November 1891. The advertisements in later copies of the first printing are dated March 1892. 3000 copies of the first printing were sold within two months. The second printing, with "Georgias" corrected to "Gorgias," was published in April 1892.