Treasures from the Rare Book Room: Making History with Weitbrecht’s Syndesmologia

Title page of Falk Library’s copy of Weitbrecht’s “Syndesmologia.”

Syndesmology is the branch of regional anatomy focused on the study of ligaments. Its founder, Josias Weitbrecht, wrote the first comprehensive manual of ligaments in 1742, giving this new area of interest a proper start and full attention. He described more than 90 connective tissues in the human body. The work was illustrated with 82 engravings which impress with their accuracy, quality, and attention to detail. The illustrations were done by three artists: Andreas Grecow and his two pupils, Gregorius Katschalow and Iohannes Sokolow.

Continue reading

Treasures from the Rare Book Room: Spotlight on Anatomy Collection

An allegorical engraving printed in Bartholin’s “Anatome.”

A newly acquired copy of “Anatome” by Thomas Bartholin is a welcome addition to the notable anatomy works in Falk Library’s Rare Book Collection. Published in Leyden in 1674, the library’s copy of the book is the de facto 4th edition of Bartholin’s Anatomy. It is Thomas’s revision of his father’s (Caspar Bartholin) anatomical work, which Thomas corrected, illustrated, and previously published in Leyden in 1641, 1645, and 1651.

Continue reading

Treasures from the Rare Book Room: Expanding the Gout and Rheumatism Collection

Antique books lined up so their spines are visible.
The first set of books received from the Osial Collection.

A generous gift is coming to the Rare Book Room at Falk Library. Dr. Thaddeus Osial is donating his extensive library of nearly 150 books on gout and rheumatism, which will expand and enhance Falk Library’s existing collection on the subject. When combined with current HSLS holdings, including the library of Dr. Gerald Rodnan, the incoming donation from Dr. Osial will cement the gout and rheumatism collection as the largest subject collection in the Rare Book Room.

Continue reading

Treasures From the Rare Book Room: Is It Really About the Witchcraft?

Etching-style portrait of the author, with his name: Ioannes Wiervs
Etching portrait of Johann Weyer, author of “De praestigiis Daemonum”

“De praestigiis Daemonum” by Johann Weyer (Basil 1563)

This year is the 460th anniversary of the publishing of “De praestigiis Daemonum” (“On the Tricks of the Devil”), written by Dutch physician Johann Weyer (1515-1588). This book is one of the gems in our collection. Continue reading

Treasures from the Rare Book Room: A New Look at 16th-Century Anatomy

Front cover of Anatomica Depicta, featuring gold geometric designs.
Front cover of the facsimile of Anatomica Depicta.

Falk Library’s facsimile of Anatomia depicta, published in Rome in 2010, replicates the original from the Florentine library. It is accompanied by a volume of commentaries (with transcription and translation of the manuscript), a wooden display case, and a protective plexiglass cover. It is the newest addition to HSLS Special Collections.

Continue reading

Treasures from the Rare Book Room: Fighting Smallpox

Open book laid flat, featuring printed text and a handwritten footnote in French.
Traité historique et pratique de l’inoculation, a book written in French and published in 1799. A handwritten footnote is shown on one of the book’s pages.

The authors of the historical and practical treatise on inoculation, Traité historique et pratique de l’inoculation (Paris 1799), were both champions of prophylaxis experimentation with preventive treatments for smallpox. Both were French physicians and military surgeons. Francois Dezoteux (1724-1803) participated in the War of the Austrian Succession. He established a school of military surgery in Paris, served as inspector of military hospitals, and studied the success of the Suttonian method of inoculation in England. Louis Valentin (1758-1829) served as military surgeon on Saint-Domingue (in present-day Haiti), but in 1793 he had to flee to the United States, where he was in charge of treating French sailors in hospitals in Virginia. While there, he gained experience in inoculation against smallpox.

Continue reading

Treasures from the Rare Book Room: Showing Some Love for Facsimiles

Falk Library has recently acquired facsimiles of two interesting medical manuscripts from the 14th century. Manuscripts, as unique objects, present a collecting challenge to both libraries and their patrons. Unlike books printed in multiple copies, manuscripts can only be in one geographic location—no matter who owns them. It is therefore impossible for other libraries to even dream of having the same manuscript. Since they can be so unreachable, the patrons who want to see and study manuscripts face barriers to access them, as well. Facsimiles—print books that are exact replicas of the originals—give patrons access not only to the intellectual content of the text, but also to the look and feel of the original manuscript. To libraries, facsimiles are a more affordable way of enriching the scope of their collections.

A page of the Chirurgia Albucasis facsimile showing miniature illustrations and gilded initial letters.

Falk Library’s two newest acquisitions are two surgical texts from the Middle Ages: Codex Vindobonensis and Manuscript Sloane.

Codex Vindobonensis SN 2641, Chirurgia Albucasis, the illuminated manuscript held by Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna, was created in southern Italy in the second quarter of the 14th century. It was written earlier, in the ninth century, by Abu’l Qasim Halaf ibn Abbas al-Zahrawi (the court physician to the Caliph al-Hakam II), as part of his monumental thirty-volume medical encyclopedia. Only the parts on surgery in Al-Zahrawi’s encyclopedia were translated from Arabic to Latin by Gerard of Cremona in the 12th century. Continue reading

Treasures from the Rare Book Room: A Complete Treatise on Childbirth Well-Valued in 18th-Century France

Guillaume Mauquest de la Motte was a surgeon-accoucheur. Accoucheurs were male surgeons specializing in childbirth, which became fashionable in 17th-century France as an alternative to the tradition of women as birth attendants. In the early 18th century, accoucheurs were at the center of a polemic by physician Philippe Hecquet, who wrote on the indecency of male birthing attendants. Guillaume Mauquest de la Motte, who responded with a defense of accoucheurs, argued that the skills and expertise that accoucheurs have are necessary to save both mother and child. This midwifery debate was more about whether physicians or surgeons are the best medical providers, rather than justifying or challenging the role of midwives. Change was coming. Only seven years later, the first school for surgeons opened in Paris in 1725, and from then on, surgeons’ training began to resemble the training of physicians.

Guillaume Mauquest de la Motte is also the author of one of the best treatises on childbirth (Traité complet des accouchements, 1721), which was also very popular and had multiple editions. Mauquest de La Motte (1655-1737) studied at the Hôtel-Dieu. After obtaining his degree, he returned to his native region of France and established a practice in Valognes in 1701. He became well known and sought after, because he gained a reputation among women for delivering babies safely. He attended to three or four deliveries daily, and he practiced surgery and obstetrics for more than fifty years. The books he published helped solidify his reputation, because his writing was grounded in his extensive experience. Continue reading

Treasures from the Rare Book Room: “The Adventures of Dr. Comicus” and Clues to Identifying Missing Publication Details

“The Adventures of Doctor Comicus or The frolics of fortune; a comic satirical poem for the squeamish & the queer in twelve cantos” was written by A Modern Syntax in the 19th century. It is a satirical poem about the amusing misfortunes of a poor country doctor during his trip to find a wife and to escape life as the all-in-one village barber, doctor, schoolmaster, and sexton. Whether it was a dream or a real escapade, it ended with Doctor Comicus’s sobering observation that,

“Man in his eager haste to seize a bliss,

Which nature never destin’d should be his […]

He dreams of riches, grandeur, and a crown,

He wakes, and finds himself a simple clown.”

The author hiding under A Modern Syntax cleverly tied his pseudonym to the widely popular “Dr. Syntax” books, published between 1815 and 1828, that were written by William Combe and illustrated by famous British cartoonist Thomas Rowlandson. A Modern Syntax took advantage of the popularity that Dr. Syntax had earned as a hero through his peregrinations. At the same time, the original Dr. Syntax story was separated from the parody by using the label “modern.” A Modern Syntax introduced Doctor Comicus as a new hero who reaped the benefits of his predecessor’s fame. It was one of many imitations of Combe’s earlier parody.

Continue reading

Treasures from the Rare Book Room: Willis and His Seminal Works

Thomas Willis (1621-1675) was a successful English physician, professor of natural sciences at Oxford, and a founding member of the Royal Society. He was an example of a physician who, instead of embracing classical authority, chose to study things based on direct observations. He was also the first to argue that research into the anatomy of the brain was the necessary foundation to speculations about the mind. Falk Library owns his work “Opera Omnia,” published in 1682 in Amsterdam by Henricus Wetstein.

Continue reading

Treasures from the Rare Book Room: Advice from a Quack or a Naturopath?

Random reflections on indigestion, bilious complaints, scrofula… by S. W. Tilke. London 1837.

This curious book is part of our gout collection, which has a few rare items. This book by Tilke, like others in the collection, is also scarce – few copies are known to be in existence. Scarce books typically were published in limited numbers, were so popular that they were read to death, or were too trivial to make it into a library collection. The scarcity of Tilke’s book may be linked to all three reasons. It was written by a self-professed expert, a baker-turned-healer, Samuel Westcott Tilke. Tilke, the owner of an establishment offering medical advice, remedies, and stay-in-clinic treatments, wrote a self-promoting work. It advertised his services, pills, medical preparations, and two products he invented: the Improved Enema Instrument and the Camphorated Spirit Bed Lamp. The language is suitable for the general public, and at one time was annotated with the handwritten notes of a studious reader. This suggests that the book gained some popularity. The presence of multiple underlined passages, marginal notes, and several additions prove that the book was studied with interest.

Continue reading

Treasures from the Rare Book Room: Discovering Unexpected Attributes of Old Books

4 microscope plates with annotationsWhen I selected Alfred Donné’s Cours de microscopie complémentaire des études médicales, anatomie microscopique et physiologie des fluides de l’économie: atlas exécuté d’après nature au microscope-daguerréotype (Paris: J.B. Baillière, 1845) as the next feature for the Treasures from the Rare Book Room series, I was certain it would be solely about the book’s novel illustrations. It turned out that this book has a link to Abraham Lincoln!

When this book appeared in print, the daguerreotype was cutting-edge technology. This was a new process for photographic images and was introduced to the public in 1839. However, French bacteriologist and physician Alfred Donné immediately recognized the usefulness of photography in microscopic observations. In 1840, he produced the first images under the microscope using this technique. Continue reading

Treasures from the Rare Book Room: Dr. Hitchcock’s Teeth Almanac for 1844

Dr. Hitchcock's Teeth Almanac for the 1844, Boston: Saxton, Peirce & Co. William White & HP Lewis, Printers.Today, the almanac is no longer the important and popular resource it once was in most households. It appeared in America at the end of the 17th century and its popularity was second only to the Bible. Almanacs offered lists of current events, advice, and weather prognostics tailored to a specific audience, such as that of the Farmer’s Almanac, and served as a basic home reference, especially for those in isolated households, helping to keep track of passing time. Dr. David Keyes Hitchcock started publishing almanacs annually around 1839, which happened years before printed calendars were invented (1870), and before there were any standards (1883)* by which to set clocks and watches.

Dr. Hitchcock (1813-1895) was a surgeon dentist with a practice in Boston at 98 Court Street. He was the author of Preservation of the Teeth: A Family Guide, published in Boston in 1840. Falk Library has Dr. Hitchcock’s teeth almanacs for the years 1843 and 1844. The first of his dental almanacs includes standard pages with an astronomical calendar and advice on the maintenance of teeth, brushing, filling cavities, considering artificial teeth as a replacement for lost ones, and determining the right time and motives for tooth extraction. Continue reading

Treasures from the Rare Book Room: Medal of Andreas Vesalius

Profile of person on a medalHave you ever looked at the HSLS collection of medical and scientific medals? Numismatic materials, including medals, coins, and tokens are not typical resources in a medical library. The first medals were produced in Italy in the 15th century. They were based on Roman coins, cast in bronze, and usually had portraits of emperors. The earliest medal in our collection is the Caracalla Medal. It was struck in Venice, Italy in 1466. Over the centuries, the techniques changed and new metals were used in production with later medals being cast or struck in silver or gold. By the 19th century, the medallic art became a recognizable new art form taught as a separate subject in art schools. Books and French transcription on a medalMedals, unlike coins, or at times tokens, are not monetary instruments. They are frequently used to commemorate people, events, or things. As a perfect medium, and due to their permanence, they pass along information about past events and man’s achievements to future generations.

The Andreas Vesalius medal, slightly bigger than an American silver dollar, is a typical commemorative medal. Continue reading