A profitable and necessarie booke of observations, for all those that are burned with the flame of gun powder, &c., and also for curing of wounds.

London: Edmund Bollifant for Thomas Dawson, 1596


FIRST EDITION thus. Two parts in one. 4to. [iv], 52, 57-229, [iii]: A-2F. “A revised edition of A prooved practise for all young chirurgians, concerning burnings with gunpowder’, with an enlarged edition of ‘A short and profitable treatise touching the cure of the disease called morbus Gallicus by unctions’. ‘A briefe and necesary treatise, touching the cure of the disease now vsually called lues venerea’ has separate dated title page; pagination and register are continuous.” ESTC. Black letter, some Roman and Italic. Small woodcut ornament on t-p, large royal arms on verso, four full-page woodcut illustrations of surgical instruments and ‘The surgery Chest’ on pp. 136 and 137, woodcut printer’s device on second t-p, Clowes woodcut arms on verso, bookplate of Thomas Francis Fremantle, Lord Cottlesowe on pastedown. First title dusty and a little soiled in outer margins, first quire dusty in margins, mostly marginal water-staining, a little heavier in places, the occasional thumb mark, spot or small stain, lightly browned. A good copy in early C19th calf, covers bordered with a blind rule and scrolled border. Spine hatched in blind at head and tail small repair to head of spine.

Rare and important compendium of the surgical writings, expanded in this edition, of William Clowes (c.1540-1604) which were amongst the most significant of the Elizabethan age. Clowes had been a naval surgeon and accompanied the expedition of the Earl of Leicester in the Low Countries. “William Clowes was the foremost Elizabethan-era military and naval surgeon and an expert on syphilis.. Clowes completed his training at 19 years of age and joined the Earl of Warwick’s unsuccessful venture to Normandy in support of the Protestant cause and its leader the Prince of Condé. The English forces were pushed back into Le Havre and, crowded into the city and poorly supplied from across the English channel, were devastated by a combination of plague and scurvy. Clowes, hampered by a lack of supplies wrote that he found his fingers the best of surgical instruments and scabbards quite satisfactory splints. When the defeated English forces came home, Clowes joined the Royal Navy and served as a surgeon’s mate for the next five years during which time he acquired the experience treating syphilis that resulted in his work ‘De Morbo Gallico’, which he published in 1585. With Queen Elizabeth’s support, Clowes was appointed assistant surgeon to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in 1576.  .. In 1588, he was named surgeon to the fleet that had gathered to meet the Armada.. His 1581 ‘A proved Practise for all young Chirurgions  Concerning Burnings with Gunpowder and Wounds Made with Gunshot’ was the first book in English that dealt with gunshot wounds in a Naval context. In 1596 Clowes published ‘A profitable and necessarie booke of observations’ a compendium of his extensive surgical and medical experience.” Jack Edward McCallum ‘Military Medicine: From Ancient Times to the 21st Century’.

“Clowes’ most important publication is ‘A profitable and necessarie booke of observations’  .. He indicates in these writings an earnest desire to pass on the benefits of his observations to younger surgeons ‘for the good of my countrymen’ .. In keeping with this purpose, he wrote in English rather than Latin. Like his German contemporaies, Clowes was a wound surgeon, and he makes no mention of elective operative surgery. His observations consist of a series of case reports, dealing chiefly with gunshot wounds or burning with gunpowder. Contrary to widely held early opinion, he did not believe gunshot woounds to be poisoned, although .. he became convinced that it was possible for a bullet to be intentionally smeared with poison before firing. He also describes the experiments he conducted by which he learned that the bullet was not sufficiently exposed to heat, as it was being discharged, to neutralise the poison applied. .. This early application of scientific investigation of a clinical problem is of great interest and merits special attention. .. He .. displayed an open mind and the courage to make independent observations and to profit from them. .. Thus he represents and example of the best type of practical wound surgeon of his time.” Leo M. Zimmerman ‘Great Ideas in the History of Surgery.’

Cockle 56. ESTC S108096. STC 5445.5 Osler 2325 ‘The best surgical writings of his time in English. ..his books are full of pictures of daily life in the reign of Elizabeth.’ Welcome 1507. Durling 971. Morton 2373.


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