OUTSTANDING SURGICAL ILLUSTRATIONS

Discorsi sopra il modo di sanguinare.

Rome, [B. Bonfadino], 1586.

(with)

Discorso sopra il modo di fare i cauterij.

Rome, B. Bonfadino, 1588.

£6,500

FIRST EDITION of second. 4to. pp. (xii) 117 (i); (xii) 82 (ii). Roman letter, with Italic. 1: engraved architectural t-p with putti holding wreaths above and two surgeons at centre, 11 full-page engravings of bloodletting scenes; 2: woodcut architectural t-p with putti holding wreaths, full-page woodcut author’s portrait to verso of +6, 20 full-page or smaller woodcuts of medical instruments; woodcut printer’s device to last, and decorated initials and ornaments to both. Variable marginal foxing, few ll. slightly browned. Very good, clean copies, plates in excellent impression, in contemporary vellum, traces of ties, title and shelfmark inked to spine, ‘n.64’ to upper cover, slight detaching at head. C19 inscriptions ‘Antonio Balcesi’ and ‘roma cottae(?) giuli 7 ½’ to front pastedown, C17 inscription ‘Pyrrhi Bizarrinij Ph(?) et Med: Sen: Bibliotheca adscripsit’ inked to lower margin of t-p.

Very good, clean copies of these scarce Italian surgical manuals on bloodletting and cauterization. Pietro Paolo Magni (b.1525) was a barber-surgeon from Piacenza; he served in the army and later moved to Rome. As liminal figures between academic and popular medicine, barber-surgeons were concerned with the ‘cleanliness of the body’ as well as ‘bloodletting, also with the use of leeches, treating wounds, cauterizing them, pulling out rotten teeth, etc., so that…their art [was] subordinate to the Science of Medicine’ (Garzoni, ‘Piazza Universale’, 825, 856-57). Like all barber-surgeons, Magni was only licensed to practice external (surgical) not internal (medical) treatments, the latter including the administration of pharmacopoeia; trespassers of this theoretical line, most often denounced by disappointed patients, were fined and even imprisoned (‘Barbieri e comari’, 162). Magni’s vernacular manuals urged barber-surgeons to be as professional and exact as possible. The first work was entirely devoted to bloodletting, discussing procedures, instruments (lancets or leeches) and problem-solving (how to prevent patients scared of bloodletting from having a fatal panic attack). It also examined the benefits or dangers of cutting into specific veins, e.g., midwives knew that bloodletting from the saphenous vein in the foot could cause a miscarriage. The handsome engravings, attributed to Adamo Ghisi and here in outstanding impression, first appeared in 1584 (Sander 267). The scarcer second work was devoted to cauterization through the use of scorching iron instruments (or a smaller iron screw for younger patients), illustrated with detailed woodcuts, to heal wounds to the head, eyes, nose, teeth, mouth, neck and limbs, as well as the stomach and spleen. Instructions were provided for the treatment of different wounds and the resulting burns from cauterization, depending on the different body tissues involved. Paying customers were severe critics of incompetent barber-surgeons who had to redo a bloodletting cut or had caused pain during procedures; patients might also demand their money back in case of treatments gone wrong (‘Barbieri e comari’, 166). Hence the major importance of Magni’s manuals—written, as he says, ‘upon the request of both patients and surgeons’—for the practitioners of a fundamental profession in the history of early modern medicine.  

Pirro Bizzarrini (fl. 1610s-1630) was a Tuscan physician, later professor of theoretical medicine at Pisa and of Botany at Siena. This copy was used by him at Siena.

1) Brunet III, 1298: ‘ouvrage curieux’; Mortimer, Harvard C16 It., 267; NLM 2906; Wellcome I, 3960. Not in BM STC It. or Sander.  

2) Mortimer, Harvard C16 It., 268; NLM 2907; Wellcome I, 3963. Not in BM STC It. Sander. G. Pomata, ‘Barbieri e comari’, in Medicina, erbe e magia (Milano, 1981), 162-83.

L3185

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