MEDICAL MISCONCEPTIONS AND THE PROFESSION
Erreurs populaires touchant la medecine et regime de Santé.Lyon, Barthélemy Vincent, 1626.
FIRST EDITION. 8vo. 6 parts in 1, continuous pagination, half-title to last five, pp. , 509, , last 2 ll. of errata. Roman letter, some Italic. Woodcut printer’s device to title, decorated initials and ornaments. Title a little dusty, light browning, occasional minor foxing or faint water stain to margins. A good copy in contemporary limp vellum, early ms title to spine, a little soiled, C18 ms bibliographical note and early inscription (erased) to front pastedown.
A good copy of the first edition of this most interesting work on popular medical misconceptions, and the status of medicine and the medical profession. Gaspard Bachot (b.1570?), ‘medecin du Roy’, wrote it as the third part of a work of the same title by the Montpellier physician, and Bachot’s teacher, Laurent Joubert (1529-82), first printed in 1578. Like Joubert – the creator of the ‘popular misconceptions’ genre – Bachot sought to steer both physicians and patients away from folk medicine, epitomized by the beliefs of self-taught village midwives, which had gradually mixed with scholarly medicine in the medieval manuscript tradition, and revert to the original Greek writings of the great medical authorities (Charuty, p.48). The very long preface is a bold, medico-philosophical summary of theories on the bodily physiology and spiritual nature of humans, animals, plants, insects and even ‘monsters’ (i.e., beings that are beyond, not against, nature), ‘complexio’ (outer appearance) and the workings of medical remedies, such as stones. Bachot criticises the ‘Chymiques et Paracelsistes’ who make fun of doctrines based on Greek medicine (and the ancient Spagyrics), whilst they themselves believe mercury, sulphur and salt are the only elements forming bodies. Book I is important for a digression on ‘physician’s contempt’ (‘mespris’), each vainly believing that everyone else is mistaken who doesn’t agree with him (p.114). At the end, Bachot adds a decalogue of rules of conduct for medical practitioners: e.g., learn everything that concerns your profession; never despise anyone from whom you can learn; learn at university, whilst you have the time, to be a good anatomist, surgeon, herbalist, etc.; learn about drugs; do not eschew hospitals as they are most important to see sundry types of illnesses. There follows a collection of ‘popular errors’, reasons why they are wrong and counterarguments based on Bachot’s medical experience, mostly structured in ‘is it true that…’ form, e.g., whether the heat of a bed causes scab, if it is good for one’s health to be in the cold, whether a woman who spends the months of March and September in bed will eschew all kinds of illnesses during the year (this being attributed to a midwife). To these statements is intermixed advice for a good ‘regimen sanitatis’, for instance, how much time should pass between meals; is boiled or roasted meat more nourishing; is digestion helped more by wake or sleep, work or rest, or by holding one’s arm across one’s stomach, and so on. A monumental encyclopaedia of early modern popular medicine, with insight into the medical profession of the day.USTC 6903751; Krivatsy 534; Wellcome I, 609; Not in Heirs of Hippocrates or Osler. G. Charuty, ‘L’invention de la médecine populaire’, Gradhiva, 22 (1997), pp.45-58; M. Kozluk, ‘Digression sur le « mespris » dans les Erreurs populaires de Gaspard Bachot’, Acta Universitatis Lodziensis. Folia Litteraria Romanica, 16 (2020), pp.107-22.