CLOWES, William

CLOWES, William 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. Folio. pp. [xii], 250, [ii]. A (±A3), B-2H , 2I . Roman and Italic letter, text within box rule. Fine engraved portrait of Mary as frontispiece within roundel, Mary’s arms above, signed: R: Elstrack, title within large woodcut border, epistle signed “Wil. Stranguage” [i.e. William Udall], “One of three imprint variants of this edition. In this state the dedication, with pseudonymous signature, is a cancel.” ESTC. “.Hadinton” in a contemporary hand on title. another autograph erased dated 1651 above, engraved armorial bookplate of Thomas Hamilton (1721-1794), 7th Earl of Haddington, on verso of t-p, contemporary inscription on fly erased, early shelf marks on t-p and and frontispiece. Light age yellowing, very rare spot or mark, t-p fractionally dusty in lower outer margin. A fine, large paper copy, crisp and clean in handsome contemporary calf, covers double gilt and blind ruled to a panel design, corners stopped with small gilt fleurons, gilt fleurons to corners of inner panel, arms of John Bill, Kings Printer at centres, spine blind ruled, slightly later morocco label gilt, edges gilt ruled, a.e.r. endpapers renewed, extremities slightly rubbed.

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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