"Of Singular Rarity"
Historiarum, et Observationum Medicophysicarum, Centuria prima [...-secunda]. In qua, non solum, multa utilia, sed & rara, stupena ac inaudita continentur.
Castris [Castres]: Apud Arnaldum Colomerium, 1653.
1st Edition. Hardcover. Very Good. Item #003357
Two parts in one volume. 12mo (148 x 88 mm). , 240 pp. Small woodcut device on titles, separate title-page to second part, woodcut illustration of a siamese twin on p.180, woodcut initials and headlines, errata on final page. Bound in contemporary plain vellum (soiled and spotted, no endpapers bound in). Old ownership signature torn off from first title and backed with paper, affecting a few words verso, text little evenly browned and with some faint dampstaining, a few ink corrections in text. Provenance: Francisci Courbièr, inscribed on à12r "ex-libris Francisci Courbièr Virellensis doctoris medici parisiensis 1701." A very good copy in untouched original binding. ----
D.S.B., II, pp. 305-06; Singer, Notes on the Early History of Microscopy ("Our authority for the existence of this edition, which we have not seen, is Hoefer's "Nouvelle Biographie Universelle"); Garrison-Morton 260; NLM/Krivatsy 1570; Wellcome II, p. 204 (2nd edition only); Norman 269 (2nd edition only); Honeyman 395 (2nd edition only); Jonathan Hill Cat. 191, no. 24. FIRST EDITION, AND ONE OF THE GREATEST RARITIES IN THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE AND MICROSCOPY. "As a testament to the book's rarity, it should be noted that Haskell Norman was never able to acquire a copy, settling only for the second edition of 1656 . . . The learned dealer Ernst Weil, in his Cat. 16 described a copy of the present book and wrote 'a most important work, and of singular rarity.'" (Jonathan Hill). We weren't able to trace any copy in auction records. Jonathan Hill's copy (in 18th century binding and with some headlines slightly shaved) was listed for $45.000.
In the first work to apply microscopy to medicine "Borel probably saw the blood corpuscles and Sarcoptes scabiei." (Garrison-Morton). The use of the microscope in medicine revealed another world for physicians and scientists. There are also a number of dental and ophthalmological observations. Borel (1620-1671), was born at Castres, studied medicine at Montpellier, and began his practice at Castres in 1641. In 1653 he went to Paris and about 1654 was appointed physician to the king. During his whole life he ardently pursued the study of natural history, chemistry, optics, astronomy, antiquities, philology, and bibliography. Among his other works are the first bibliography of chemistry (1654) and the first history of the telescope (1655). Besides practicing medicine, Borel collected rarities, plants, antiquities, and minerals from the town itself and countryside surrounding Castres."
Probably, the first practical physician who used a microscope in the course of his profession was Pierre Borel (1620-71). This versatile and gifted man, the son of a mathematician, -struggled through youthful poverty and adversity to a very prominent position in the intellectual life of France. Borel himself acquired considerable grasp of mathematical principles and was an ardent follower of Descartes. He was certainly in possession of a microscope and understood its uses before 1649. His 'Historiarum et Observationum Medico-Physicarum' of 1653 is, we believe, the first medical work involving the use of the microscope, and the following quotation from it suggests that he had already, at that early date, obtained a view of the blood corpuscles. "On Whale-shaped Insects in Human Blood (Century III, Observation 4). - Animals of the shape of whales or dolphins swim in the human blood as in a red ocean. . . . These creatures, it may be supposed (since they themselves lack feet) were formed for the bodily use of the more perfect animals within which they are themselves contained, and that they should consume the depraved elements of the blood. If you would like to see these, take a sheep or ox liver, cut it into small portions and place it in water, teasing and separating it with your hands, and you will see many such animals escaping from them, nor will they be destitute of movement if the liver is fresh. They lurk in the large veins, and I think that they are those worms which are found in the stomach, being transformed when they change their position ... Again in a later observation he gives us a glimpse of tissue structure. "The heart, kidneys, testicles, liver, lungs, and other parenchymatous organs," he says, "you will find to be full of little structures (organula) and they are like sieves by means of which Nature arranges the various substances according to the shape of the holes. Passage is thus given only to atoms of a certain shape." And lastly he prophesies the medical application of his instrument. "These microscopes," he writes, "may be used in new matters in the observation of the sick, e.g. to observe change of colour or the generation of insects." " (Singer, p.272). - Visit our website for additional images and information!
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