GALEN. De la raison de curer par evacuation de sang.

Lyon, chez Sulpice Sabon pour Antoine Constantin, [1541]


FIRST EDITION thus. 8vo. pp. 63 [i]. A-D8. Roman letter. Sabon’s woodcut printer’s device on title, fine large historiated incipit initial and smaller white on black historiated initials, C19th label with shelf mark on pastedown, bibliographical note on fly concerning the woodcut initials. Very light age yellowing. A fine copy, crisp and clean, beautifully bound in dark blue morocco by Chambolle-Duru, monogram gilt stamped to centres of covers, spine with raised bands, gilt lettered, edges double gilt ruled, inner dentelles richly gilt.

First separate edition of this French translation by Pierre Tolet of Galen’s major work on bloodletting, the imprint was shared and published simultaneously by Etienne Dolet. Pierre Tolet or Petrus Toletus (1502-1586) was a French doctor who pioneered, with Jean Canappe, the transmission of medical and surgical knowledge in the French language. He studied medicine in Montpellier (where he was a fellow student of Rabelais), before practicing at the Hôtel-Dieu in Lyon eventually becoming Dean of the faculty. He set up a teaching program in French, with daily visits by students to the hospital with patients and created a single training course for doctors, barbers and apothecaries. A friend of Rabelais, he was also a leading figure in Lyon’s cultural life and a member of an influential circle of scholars (Barthélémy Aneau, Maurice Scève, etc.) He was one of the great popularisers of medical knowledge of his time, and was also a pioneer of the precedence of invention and discovery over received authority. “Pierre Tolet is known to us mainly as one of the actors performing the ‘Morale comoedie de cellui qui avoit espousé une femme mute’ (by Rabelais) at Montpellier. His importance goes however beyond the fact that he is mentioned by Rabelais. He was in fact one of the first men to demand the use of the French language in medicine.” C. A. Mayer. ‘Pierre Tolet and the Paradoxe du Vinaigre’.

Etienne Dolet played a major role in the publishing of these texts, encouraging both Tolet and Canappe in their translations, as he understood the significance of such a project, which was still radical in France at this period. Tolet leveraged the prestige of his training at he University of Montpellier to introduce the practise of teaching and writing in French at Lyon. It seems Tolet chose this classic text by Galen on bloodletting for translation as he felt it was an indispensable text in the practise of medicine. The history of bloodletting derives from Hippocrates who believed that existence was represented by the four basic elements—earth, air, fire, and water—which in humans were related to the four basic humors: blood, phlegm, black bile, yellow bile. Being ill meant having an imbalance of the four humors. Therefore treatment consisted of removing an amount of the excessive humor by various means such as bloodletting, purging, catharsis, diuresis, etc.. Galen in his treatise on the subject declared blood as the most dominant humor and under his huge influence the practice of venesection gained even greater importance in the history of medicine.

USTC. 29673 Baudrier II, 30. Brunet Suppl. I, 528. Gultlingen. Welcome. Durling. Hiers of Hippocrates. Osler.
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