Paris: Jean Le Royer, 1561.
1st Edition. Hardcover. Very Good. Item #003341
28 February 1561. 8vo (160 x 108 mm). , 276,  leaves, including final leaf of privilege, several woodcut illustrations of anatomy and surgical instruments, lacking the title-leaf (loosely inserted as good facsimile). Signatures: [pi]4 *8; A-Z8 Aa-Nn8 (-[pi]1). Contemporary tanned vellum (tightly bound, hinge of lower board split at foot), red-sprinkled edges. Text little evenly browned throughout, light pale dampstaining towards upper outer corner, minor occasional soiling and spotting, leaf Dd4 with clean tear (no loss). Provenance: 17th century ownership inscription "Ex libris Francisci Thomas" dated 1648, to final flyleaf and additional inscription and ink annotations to recto and verso of privilege leaf; French collector Nicolas Jouravleff. Except for the missing title a very good, well-margined copy in untouched original binding. ----
RARE FIRST EDITION of Ambroise Paré's classic work on the treatment of head wounds, written shortly after Henri II's death from the strike of a lance in the eye during a tournament. The first part is entirely devoted to the anatomy of the head and illustrated with woodcuts after Vesalius. The second part describes the treatment of head wounds, skull fractures and diseases of the face, with several text illustrations of surgical instruments. Some of these illustrations have been attributed to Jean Cousin originally published in La maniere de traicter les playes, 1551, but others are new here. His contributions to surgery were as revolutionary as they were short-lived. The son of an artisan, trained as a barber-surgeon (and hence ignorant of Latin), Paré became a military surgeon and eventually attained the rank of premier chirurgien du roi under Charles IX and Henri II. Having accidentally discovered, in the heat of the battle of Turin in 1536, that the gentle dressing of gunshot wounds possessed curative powers far superior to the traditional painful technique of cauterization, Paré pursued this unheard-of treatment, experimenting with various dressings, and published his discoveries in 1545 in his first book, La methode de traicter les playes. Although he embraced traditional medieval believes in the humoral basis for illness and health, he developed his own empirically based surgical methods, which included the practice of ligaturing blood vessels after amputation to control hemorrhage as well as improvements in obstetrical surgery and also invented new surgical instruments for his purposes. His innovations won him both, the fervent support of his noble clientele, but the violent opposition of the medical establishment, culminating in attempts by the Paris Faculty of Medicine to suppress his works, which were particularly widely disseminated because of their use of the vernacular. For a time after Paré's death his writings continued to circulate throughout Europe, but in France the reactionary pressure of medical academia forced a reversion to the old methods within 50 years. Paré's discoveries were not to be revived until the abolition of the Faculty of Medicine during the French Revolution.
The octavo monographs published by Paré before the collected works first appeared in 1575 are now extremely rare. The best collection of them which is recorded was made by Harvey Cushing about 60 years ago. Though Sir William Osler's statement that "only a few copies of each are known" is slightly exaggerated, but it is true to say that outside the old medical libraries copies of these books are now hardly ever seen. In the whole range of BAR only two of them are recorded, one in 1917 and another in 1926; a furher was in the Butler sale of 1911 (not in the Wellcome Library). None of these was a copy of this work. A complete copy sold in 1998 (Christie's Norman sale, lot 151) for $112,500.
References: Doe 12; B.M. STC, p.337; NLM/Durling 3524; Garrison-Morton 4850.3; Waller 7170; Cushing Coll. p.75; Norman 1639; Christie's, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine, Part I; not in Wellcome or Adams.
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