Treasures from the Rare Book Room: Le Rouge, Avis Très Important Aux Personnes Attaquées de Hernies Ou Descentes, Paris 1784

We know very little about the author of an unusual book on hernia found in the Falk Library Rare Book Collection. Jean Pierre Le Rouge was a surgeon at the College of Surgeons in Paris and at the Hôtel-Dieu in the second half of the 18th century and was the author of two books on hernias. He had 17 years of experience working at the biggest hospital in Paris, Hôtel-Dieu, when he published his first popular work Avis très important aux personnes attaquées de hernies ou descentes [Translation: Very important notice to people attacked by hernia] in 1784. A year later, in 1785, his thesis Dissertatio anatomico-chirurgica de perfecta inguinalis herniae simplicis curatione [Translation: Thesis on the treatment of inguinal hernia] appeared. Both books are very scarce.

The popular tract may be considered an early example of consumer health information. It consists of five chapters, in which the author (1) explains the causes and characteristics of different hernia types; (2) gives advice on limiting physical activities when wearing hernia trusses; (3) points out the need to wear supportive bandages or pessaries; (4) discusses palliative treatment focused on reducing hernias by means of bandages illustrated with the cases from his hospital practice; and (5) provides a composition of a plaster for the radical cure of a hernia. The last chapter is interesting because he also expresses his opinion on practices in the treatment of hernias, which is based on the three principles: (1) discovery of the nature of the disease through anatomical examination; (2) search for remedies that respond to the indications; and (3) experimentation. However, Le Rogue’s experiments do not go very far and explicitly exclude surgical interventions: “I will not speak here of the various operations which have been proposed for the radical cure of hernias: as dangerous as they are uncertain, we must wish that they remain forever forgotten.”

The HSLS copy of the title book is one of only two copies held in United States libraries. It is a small work, only 36 pages, bound with another contemporary work on hernia. The binding is modern marble boards. It can be viewed in the Rare Book Room by appointment.


~Gosia Fort