Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2005 Issue

Dentistry and Other New Acquisitions at the Antiquariaat Forum

R1220

The book offers a new remedy for tooth decay


By Michael Stillman

The Antiquariaat Forum has announced a group of new listings via its website, rather than the printed page. Websites offer the opportunity to make new acquisitions immediately available, something that wasn't practical just a few years ago. The Antiquariaat Forum is located in the Netherlands, but not being an expert on Dutch history, I decided to focus on a group of new acquisitions to which we all can relate with equal dread. The subject is dentistry, and if that can make your teeth chatter today, just think what it must have been like centuries ago. Be thankful you get to read about it, rather than experience it.

Item 18 is L'Art du Dentiste mis à la portée de tout le monde... by Alex Lenti, published by the author in 1810. This was a popular book of dental advice by a Hamburg dentist. On the title is a quote attributed to Rousseau, "With beautiful teeth, there are no ugly women." Rousseau was the cranky French philosopher most noted for the "Social Contract," an influential 18th century tract where he proposes that our freedoms are best assured by following the laws of a social contract on which we all agree. In his personal affairs, Rousseau fathered a number of illegitimate children whom he sent off to foster homes rather than care for himself. Presumably their mothers all had good teeth. €5,500 (Equivalent US $7,442).

Item 23 from A. Schange is Description Treptodonte et de Stéréodonte, appareils nouveaux pour le redressement des Dents... Published in Paris in 1857, this is a book about some new dental instruments which will help rearrange your teeth and keep them in place. This is the wonderful field today known as "orthodontics." It describes the earliest use of "teeth-bracelets," or braces to use the less appealing term. Schange was a respected physician-dentist who was a member of various leaned academies. €2,350 (US $3,179).

C. Delacour was another French dentist who devised an elixir to stop tooth decay and its pain and spare the patient the need for pulling the decaying tooth. The ingredient was an aluminous camphorated chloroform. Directions called for cleaning the tooth as best possible, dipping a ball of cotton in the solution, and then, with the aid of an instrument provided with the medication, applying the soaked cotton ball to the decayed tooth. It probably didn't provide much long term help or we wouldn't be using fillings today, but the solution may well have worked at least to numb the pain. Item 11 is Notice sur la Carie des Dents et sur l'emploi d'une liqueur alumineuse camphrèe au chlorophorme... and it was published in 1848. €3,500 (US $4,736).

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