Antique medical manuscripts popular at Dominic Winter



2015-06-26 11:17:05

Antique medical manuscripts popular at Dominic Winter

27 Jul 2012, 12:05 GMT+01

Gruesome tales and gory medical illustrations abounded at Dominic Winter’s auction of the Birmingham Medical Institute’s antiquarian library yesterday. Just under 400 lots of medical books, manuscripts, pamphlets and related items went under the hammer.

Previously tipped as a top seller, a 17th century manuscript about midwifery did not disappoint. The observations of obstetrician Percival Willughby recount in great detail the grisly ins and outs of almost 200 births, and the malpractices and the tragedies caused by gravely ignorant midwives, that occurred in the 1600s. The work was not published until 1863, and this first edition, one of only two complete copies known to exist, sold above its estimate at £38,000.

The top seller among the printed books was Francesco Antommarchi’s 1823-1826 work Planches anatomiques du corps humain executes d’apres les dimensions naturelles, composed of forty-eight hand coloured lithographed plates, together with the text volume explaining them. This anatomical study, by Napoleon Bonaparte’s personal physician during the emperor’s exile on Saint Helena, fetched £9,600 after an estimate of just £3,000-£4,000.

Some fantastically named pamphlets and essays from the 1700s were available, including but by no means limited to: Nymphomania, Or, A Dissertation Concerning the Furor Uterinus, A New Essay on the Nerves, and the Doctrine of the Animal Spirits Rationally Considered, Experiments and Observations on Animal Heat and the Inflammation of Combustible Bodies, and A Chain of Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries Concerning the Virtues of Tar Water. These generally sold for a few hundred pounds each.

The auction also featured two paintings and three lots of medical artefacts, including a set of 1820s apothecary scales, an 18th century Italian drug jar, and a 1960s psychological examiner’s clinical suitcase and contents. There were also eight lots of suitably gruesome antique surgical instruments offered to complete a fascinating delve into medical history.

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