Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2009 Issue

Renaissance Medical Works from Thomas-Scheler and Alain Brieux

Thomas-schelerprecurseurs

Early medicine from Thomas-Scheler and Alain Brieux.


By Michael Stillman

A very special catalogue has just been issued for those who collect in the field of early medical and anatomical books. The title is Precurseurs et Novateurs. Medicines et Medicins de la Renaissance, and as you might expect, the catalogue is primarily written in French. It is the joint work of two French booksellers, Librarie Thomas-Scheler and Librairie Alain Brieux. The works are very early, hence the reference to the Renaissance. They range from incunables (15th century) to late in the 16th century. Naturally, the medical field was quite primitive by today's standards. Most "cures" would have been ineffective, some harmful to the patient. Some of the earlier looks at the human anatomy were either fanciful, or humans have evolved at an astonishing rate over the past 500 years. Still, this was an exciting time for the field. Advancements in medicine were few during the twenty centuries between Hippocrates and the Renaissance. Now, all types of scientific studies were taking place, and despite the many misconceptions, superstitions, and inaccurate beliefs, the foundation was being set for the advances in protecting and saving human life which would come in the years ahead, particularly the last century. Here are a few of the groundbreaking medical books from four and five centuries ago offered in this extraordinary catalogue.

It is appropriate to start with the great Greek physician whose works were still the foundation of medicine two millennia later at the beginning of the Renaissance. Hippocrates described fevers and other disorders, wrote about bone fractures and surgery, offered rules on diagnosis and public health, and provided many medical observations. To this day he is remembered for his ethics and ideals, notably the Hippocratic Oath, for a physician to do his best to help his patients and do them no harm. Item 96 is Hippocratis Coi medicorum omnium longe Principis... a first edition of the complete works of Hippocrates, published in Rome in 1525. Priced at €35,000 (euros, or approximately $52,175 in U.S. dollars).

Item 15 is the first Parisian illustrated edition of Le Proprietaire en Francoys (The Property of Things). Writer Bartholomeus Anglicus (Bartholomew the Englishman) takes on virtually every subject imaginable in this encyclopedia, including medicine, the universe, God, minerals, air, water, and time. Bartholomew was a bishop as well as a scholar, not surprising as he lived in an era when few outside the Church would have had access to written works. Though this set of his works was published from 1499-1503, Bartholomew lived during the 13th century, long before printing made knowledge available to the public. €120,000 (US $178,890).

Item 111 is a second Latin edition of the first book to contain anatomical illustrations, Fasciculus medicine. This edition was published in 1495 (the first was published in 1491). The book carries the name of Johannes de Ketham (possibly the same person as the Viennese physician Johannes von Kirchheim). Not much is known about Ketham, but he was not so much the author as an editor or compiler of various manuscripts, some dating back to medieval times. Price on request.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

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