TOLET, François


TOLET, François Traité de la lithotomie, ou de l\\\'extraction de la pierre, hors de la vessie

The Hague, Barent Beek, 1686


12mo, pp. 172 (viii) + 18 ll. of plates. Roman letter, attractive engraved t-p depicting a surgeon operating in front of a group of students, ‘JG. Seiller Sc(ulpsit)’, 18 full-page engraved plates and two ¼ page illustrations in text depicting bladder stones, surgical procedures and instruments. Engraved t-p a little dusty, slight age yellowing, light browning to five plates, paper flaw to one lower blank margin, a couple of small marginal stains. A good, clean copy in contemporary calf, covers double gilt ruled à la Duseuil, second frame with gilt floral squared cornerpieces and gilt centrepiece, spine with raised bands, gilt floral decoration in compartments, outer edges gilt, early ms. annotation “1/3 – he” to front paste-down.


A very good copy of this remarkably illustrated treatise on vesical lithotomy, the surgical operation for the removal of bladder stones. This edition is a reproduction the third edition printed in Paris the same year, featuring a new additional engraved frontispiece. This copy is in a lovely contemporary Dutch gilt binding, decorated ‘à la Duseuil’. The fine floral square-shaped tools used as corner pieces on the covers of this copy are extremely similar, perhaps inspired, to those employed by the French Luc-Antoine Boyet (active 1684-1733), the official binder of the King Louis XIV (see for example, ‘Reliures françaises du XVIIe siècle’, p. 110, tool 5).

François Tolet (1647-1624) was a celebrated French surgeon, lithotomist at the Hôpital de la Charité of Paris and court lithotomist to the Royal family. ‘A treatise of lithotomy, or, of the extraction of the stone out of the bladder’, first published in 1682, is considered a classic contribution of the subject. At the time, lithotomy was one of the most dangerous operations: Tolet stresses the importance of practicing using dead bodies and remarks that the surgeon should operate quickly in order to minimise pain. After providing a general definition of ‘lithotomy’, Tolet lists al the causes of stones – e.g. unleavened bread, curds, old cheese, hard eggs, unripe fruits, the feet or legs of beef or pork, salted or spiced meats, medicines which dehydrate the body – explains how they are formed, presents all different types and discusses the symptoms. Then, he describes the surgical procedures that can be used to determine the position of stones – for example using a catheter to detect an obstruction of the urethra – and to remove them. The lesser and greater lateral perineal operations are presented in detail. Specific directions are given for the operation in adults of both sexes, and a separate chapter is also dedicated to children. This work contains the first meticulous description of the puncture of the bladder, which Tolet practised introducing a cannula through the perineum.

The treatise is accompanied by a series of very detailed engravings. These show how to perform all the different surgical procedures, illustrating the making of the incisions, an impressive array of surgical instruments and their use, and seven different types of stones. Among the most interesting plates, those showing how to carefully restrain the patients during surgery, using surgical chairs or tables, straps and strong assistants.

STCN 081615299; Krivatsy 11904. This ed not in USTC, BM STC Netherlands, Garrison Morton or Heirs of Hippocrates. Not in Brunet, Graesse or Bibliotheca Osleriana. I. De Conihout and P. Ract-Madoux, Reliures françaises du XVIIe siècle (2002).

Out of stock