Chirguia nova

Frankfurt, Johannes Sauerius, 1598


8vo, pp.605 (xi). Roman letter, some italic, title in red and black with printer’s woodcut device, very faint library stamp probably c.1900 at side, 22 full page woodcuts of surgical equipment and patients, very clearly drawn, detailed and well defined. General age browning, some spotting, intermittent near-contemp marginalia, ex libris of Andreas Libavius on pastedown, early and 19th century bibliographical notes on fly. In contemp stiff vellum, remains of label and ties, small gilt-stamped ex libris to upper cover.

Second edition, first published under the title ‘De curatorum chirugia per institionem’ in Venice the previous year of Taliacotius’ (or Tagliacozzis’) ground-breaking work on plastic surgery, the first book dedicated exclusively to that subject and the magnum opus of its founder. Taliacotius (1545-1599) studied in his native Bologna under Cardano, Aldrovandi and Aranzzi before being becoming successively professor of surgery and anatomy there. Before the Renaissance, methods of reparing the damage from duels and warfare were maintained as trade secrets by the barber-surgeons; nasal reconstruction was particularly profitable business. Although Celsus and others had discussed aspects of plastic surgery, (Vesalius very wrongly), Taliacotius was the first to establish their scientific validity and to improve techniques in light of the best medical knowledge of the day. Soon his skill was renowned throughout Europe and the present treatise published to encapsulate his life’s work. In the Chirugia nova Taliacotius describes the first delayed flap for nasal deconstruction, detailing the theory behind the procedure, depicts the instrumentation and describes the progressive steps of the operation as well as post-operation bandages and care. We know that Taliacotius obtained excellent results. Curiously, in the 17th century European surgery suffered a period of decline and none more so than plastic surgery. Taliacotius’ successful methods were actually forgotten and not rediscovered until the beginning of the 19th century.

Andreas Libavius, or Libau, from Halle, studied at Wittenberg, Jena and Basel, where he took his M.D, ultimately becoming rector of the Gymnasium at Colny. Francis Yates in ‘The Rosecrucean Enlightenment’ says of him “Andreas Libravius was one of those chymists who was influenced to a point by the new teachings of Paracelsus, adhering theoretically to the traditional Aristotelian and Galenist teachings and rejecting the Paracelsis mysticism…. Libravius is strongly against devices of macro-microcosmic harmony, against Magia and Cabala, against Hermes Trismegistes (from whose supposed writings he makes many quotations), against Agrippa and Trithemius – in short, he is against the Renaissance….’

‘The volume is divided in two parts: “the first… is about the structure, function and physiology of the nose, and the second… describes and illustrates the instruments and operative procedures for the restoration of the nose, lip and ear. Tagliacozzi also fully discusses the complications such as hemorrhage and gangrene, that often occurred during these operations. The numerous full-page woodcuts are well-executed and illustrate many of the techniques described in the text” Heirs of Hippocrates 236 (1597) ed.

BM STC Ger p.848. Durling 4312. Garrison & Morton 5734 (1597). Wellcome I 6211. Osler 4079.


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