GALEN; GALE, Thomas, ed. Certaine Workes of Galens.

London, T. East, 1586.


Small 4to. pp. [6], 138. Black letter, occasional Roman. Title within typographical border, large armorial printer’s device to last verso, decorated initials and ornaments. Two small worm holes to lower outer corners, just touching the odd letter or word, very faint water stain to lower half of last four gatherings. A very good, clean copy in early C17 English sprinkled calf, rebacked, double blind ruled, extremities repaired, eps renewed, all edges sprinkled red, C17 ‘Gallen is booke’ to outer blank margin of B2 verso.

A very good copy of this scarce (probably) third, enlarged edition of this manual for surgeons, edited by Thomas Gale (1507-87), author of the first book on surgery written in English. It comprises an introduction on ‘the office of the Chyrurgion’ – a revised compendium of the introduction and first chapter of Guy de Chauliac’s ‘Chirurgia magna’ – and an English translation of Books 3-6 of ‘Methodus medendi’, on ulcers and abscesses, adapted from Robert Copland’s translation for the first ed. The first of 1542 only included Book 4 of ‘Methodus medendi’, and an additional abridgement of the Guy’s ‘Petite Chirurgie’; the work was reprinted a few times in the C16, with occasional revisions to the content or title. These were popular texts for medical students, both in France, which provided the ultimate source for this collection, and England, where the Fellowship of Surgeons and the Company of Barbers had merged in 1540, becoming the Barber-Surgeons of London. ‘Galen’s appearance in the vernacular seems due as much to publishers’ initiative as to academic demand. […] The conflicts between physicians and surgeons, not only in England but on the continent, are well known. Class, economics, decorum, the safety of patients – all these issues were implicit in the question of vernacular instruction’ (Erler, pp.165-7). Oxford and Cambridge did not then provide surgical training. ‘Academic standards for the surgeon did not exist in England until the union of the Fellowship of Surgeons with the Barbers’ Company as the United Company of Barber-Surgeons in 1540, although the former did examine applicants for their Guild as early as the mid-C15. Formal oral examinations, however, now were instituted for the Licence, which they were authorized under their Charter to award’ (Copeman, p.655). Textbooks included, as here, Galen’s ‘Methodus medendi’ and Guy de Chauliac’s. This ed. begins with a chapter on the art of medicine and its aims, a short translation from Tagault’s book on surgery, and the conditions that require a surgeon, with observations on the regimen sanitatis and physiology. There follow Books 3-6 of Galen’s ‘Therapeutikon’, on the treatment of various kind of ulcers, including those that do not seem to heal, malignant ulcers and those located in the genital areas, the treatment of a ruptured vein or artery, bloodletting, and the treatment of hurt nerves and tendons, wounds in the abdomen, and illnesses that affect the bones. A very good copy of this scarce and important medical textbook.

Brown, Harvard, NYAM, Folger and NY State copies in the US. ESTC S117692; STC 11531; Durling, ‘Galen’, 1586.2. Not in Durling, Osler or Wellcome. M.C. Erler, ‘The First English Printing of Galen: The Formation of the Company of Barber-Surgeons’, HLQ, 48 (1985), pp.159-71; W.S.C. Copeman, ‘Medical Education in the Tudor Period’, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1959, pp.652-60.
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