RUEFF, Jakob

RUEFF, Jakob The expert midvvife, or An excellent and most necessary treatise of the generation and birth of man

London, E[dward]. G[riffin]. for S[imon]. B[urton], 1637


FIRST EDITION thus. 4to. pp. [xvi], 192, 120. A-N , 2A , 2B-2H . Woodcut initials and headpieces, typographical ornaments, very numerous woodcut medical illustrations, several full page, early shelf mark on rear fly. Light age yellowing, first two lines of printed title replaced in excellent facsimile, minor spotting, marginal soiling in places, general light paper browning. A good copy in modern calf, covers bordered with a double blind rule, spine with raised bands, a.e.r.

First and only edition of this anonymous translation into English of ‘De conceptu et generatione hominis’ the celebrated manual of obstetrics. The text is an improved version of Rösslin’s ‘Der Swangern Frauen’ but its importance to the embryologist lies in Rueff’s illustrations which show contemporary ideas about mammalian embryology, which corrected many of Rösslin’s more fantastic images, and which are copied in this English edition from Jost Amman’s fine woodcuts. The book is addressed not only to midwives, pregnant women and women in childbed but also physicians and scholars in general. “Little is known of Jacob Rueff’s early life except that he was born in 1500. Although primarily known as a physician, surgeon, and lithotomist, he was also a poet and writer of folk songs… His medical writings include a little book on tumours, astronomical notes for an almanac, and charts for blood letting. But easily his most important contribution was the publication of a practical handbook on mid-wifery in 1554. Published simultaneously in Latin and German, De conceptu et generatione hominis … became the required reading for the midwives of Zurich, for whose instruction and examination Rueff was made responsible. In 1637 an English translation was published in London with the title The expert midwife. .. Rueff’s book was for over a century a major source of information for midwives and doctors. As he wrote: “my labours I bequeath to all grave modest and discreet women, as also to such as by profession, practice either physicke or chirurgery. And whose helpe upon occasion of extreame necessity may be usefull and good both for mother, child and midwife.” Much of Rueff’s advice stems from that of classical writers or is taken from Rösslin’s Rosegarten. A great deal is also very primitive to modern eyes. But it made a start at a time when midwifery had previously been strictly a woman’s afair.” Peter Dunn. ‘Jacob Rueff (1500–1558) of Zurich and The expert midwife. Archives of disease in childhood’.

“The following year [1637]a German work, ‘The Expert Midwife’ by Jacob Rueff, was translated into English. Sadler’s work [The Sicke Woman’s Private Looking-Glasse] had drawn heavily on this text; Rueff, a Lutheran physician in Zürich, had published his book in both German and Latin back in 1554. The identity of its English translator remains a mystery, but its publication was clearly linked to Sadler’s book, since Rueff was published by Edward Griffin, the husband of Anne Griffin, who had published Sadler. Rueff had been available for translation into English for decades, but his negative vision of the womb seems to have resonated in England only after the turn of the century. Both Rueff’s and Sadler’s books are important not just in their own right, but because parts of these books were incorporated into many subsequent popular medical works. Rueff and Sadler created a very different female body than that envisioned by Raynalde. Although traces of older ideas about wonder and mystery remain, the female body became a dangerous and unstable entity. In particular the womb, formerly wondrous, was now a threat. Both texts introduced themes into English popular medical manuels: the idea that the womb can threaten a woman’s health and even her life, and a fascination with what happens when reproduction goes awry and monsters are produced” Mary Elizabeth Fissell. ‘Vernacular Bodies: The Politics of Reproduction in Early Modern England’.

A good copy of this rare and most influential edition of the English translation.

ESTC S101598. STC 21442. Wellcome 5616 Osler 3849. Not in Durling.
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