FABRICIUS, Hieronymus

FABRICIUS, Hieronymus Opera chirurgica

Padua, Francisci Bolzettae, 1647


Large 4to. Pp. (xxxii) 204 (xxiv) 188 (xvi). Roman letter, little Italic. Woodcut printers device on tp, title in black and red. Ornamental woodcut head and tail pieces, floriated initials, fine half-page eng portrait of author. Large eng portrait of Petrus de Marchettis by G. Giorgi, 1647, followed by 9 full page medical engravings by Georgi. Minimal foxing to some margins, light water stain to last leaf of table and following blank and blank upper outer corner of about 20 leaves, a few thumb marks. A good clean well margined copy with engravings in clear strong impression. In contemporary speckled sheep, rebacked, spine remounted, gilt line rules, red speckled edges.

A reprint of the 1617 first edition, of this history of anatomy during a period when surgical procedures were being revolutionised. Heirs of Hippocrates (230) states that it “described techniques entirely new for that age. It was reprinted many times, even into the eighteenth century.”

Hieronymus Fabricius (1533-1619) was an Italian medical expert, known to this day as ‘The Father of Embryology’. The surgeon and anatomist was born in Acquapendente, Latium and studied at the prestigious University of Padua. He became the professor of surgery and anatomy at the university in 1565, where he taught for almost fifty years. The University of Padua was at the cutting edge of new research; along with the publications and research of Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564), a fellow professor at Padua, anatomy progressed to being a prestigious public event, leading to the building of the monumental circular theatre– the first permanent anatomical theatre in Europe. Fabricius headed the project to build this revolutionary structure, and it is where he conducted surgical procedures on humans and animals; his bust can be viewed above the entrance door. Complex surgical implements engraved here demonstrate the tools and techniques utilised. Fabricius had major patrons including the duke of Urbino and the duke of Mantua. He treated Carlo de’Medici in Florence in 1604, as well as Galileo in 1606. A student of his demonstrates the immense impact Fabricius had on the medical world: “The celebrated Hieronymus Fabricius of Acquapendente, a most skillful anatomist, and venerable old man, or, as the learned Riolan will have it, Jacobus Sylvius, first gave representations of the valves in the veins.” (The Works of Harvey, Syd. Soc, c. xiii, p. 62.)

Fabricius examined the formation of the foetus, as well as the interior of veins and the sylvian fissure in the brain –all previously unexplored in this level of detail, the pioneering nature of this research only being understood in recent years. Opera chirurgica is his surgical manual which acts as an addendum to the already published five books entitled the Pentateuchos. Together these volumes describe tumors, wounds, ulcers, fistulas, fractures and dislocations. The Opera chirurgica contains a description of surgical instruments as well as classic surgical techniques. Techniques devised by Fabricius himself are emphasised. It describes the types of wounds and the methods for treating them. This includes removing unsightly scars, to performing surgery upon the mouth. The OPLOMOCLION (Oplomoklion) engravings demonstrate an extraordinary feat of engineering. It is an orthopaedic exoskeleton, designed by Fabricius himself to combine in one apparatus the principles for all existing devices for the correction of orthopaedic injuries and deformities. An iron model from the Science Museum Group collection (object number A73318) possesses a striking resemblance to Fabricius’s Oplomoklion. It demonstrates the innovative means of teaching and research occurring in Padua at the time. In fact, a passage by Antonio Vallisneri indicates that this remarkable device was actually built in full scale and used. “An important collection of the surgical works of Fabricius, pupil of Fallopius and teacher of Harvey”. (Dawson 2223).

This edition not in Wellcome; NLM 2341048R; OCLC 21995983; Waller 2890; Cushing F9.
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