Gynaeciorum, sive de Mulierum turn Communibus, turn Gravidarum, Parientium, et Puerperarum Affectibus & Morbis, Libri Graecorum, Arabum, Latinorum Veterum et Recentium quotquot extant, …

Strassburg: Lazarus Zetzner, 1597.

First edition under Spach’s editorship, and the most complete edition of this celebrated collection of gynaecological writings, incorporating the best that had been written on the subject. “The increased interest in diseases of women during the Renaissance is evidenced by the appearance of what we may call encyclopedias of gynaecology. Conrad Gesner (1516-1565) of Zurich, a physician of remarkable erudition and the author of the famous Bibliotheca Universalis, prepared a collection of what were considered the best treatises on diseases of women and proposed to edit them in a single volume. Before the work was finished, Gesner died, but he had designated his friend and successor at the University of Zürich, Caspar Wolff (1532-1601), to complete the task … In 1586, twenty years after the publication of the first Gynaecia, a second four-volume edition appeared. Considerably augmented, it was the work of Caspar Bauhin (1560-1624), professor of anatomy, botany, medicine and Greek at the University of Basle … The third and final edition of the Gynaecia appeared eleven years later in 1597, issued in a single volume by Israel Spach of Strassbourg” (Ricci, pp. 254-255). “Spach’s compilation of gynecological and obstetrical texts was the largest such collection of its day, reprinting most of the works collected in Caspar Wolff’s Volumen gynaeciorum (1566) and Gaspard Bauhin’s Gynaeciorum sive de mulierum affectibus (1586-1588), and adding several other treatises. The collection includes works by Plater (whose anatomy of the female genitalia heads the collection), Moschion, Le Bon, Montanus, Paré and many others. Some of the anatomical woodcuts are taken from Vesalius’s Fabrica, in particular his ‘masculinized’ representation of the female reproductive organs; also illustrated are various surgical and gynecological instruments, including a speculum” (Norman). This edition of the Gynaeciorumis the first to contain Bauhin’s Libellus variorum historianum (on Caesarean section) and Martin Akakia’s De morbis muliebribus, the latter published here for the first time; this edition is also the only one to contain a substantial index. This is a rather clean copy in an attractive contemporary binding – this book was printed on poor quality paper, and most copies are badly browned.

“Spach’s massive volume of more than a thousand pages, exclusive of an elaborate index, contains the contributions of twenty-one different authors. Felix Platter (1536-1614), anatomist and physician to the Margrave of Baden, and the earliest systematic nosologist, contributed the first monograph. The major portion is devoted to the anatomy of the female genitalia, including five pictures, all taken from Vesalius. Two pictures present the female torso with the abdominal contents exposed and labelled; the second of these shows the kidneys, uterus, bladder, tubes, ovaries and their blood supply; the remaining pictures portray the separate genital organs, including the vagina. Platter rounded out his text with brief notations on sterility, retention of dead foetus in utero, a case of abdominal pregnancy with an umbilical fistula, super- foetation, fluor, ulcerations of the cervix and bladder, uterine prolapse, etc. He made the erroneous statement that the tubes had a wide communication surrounded by vessels in the center. The historian Kossmann was of the opinion that Platter was referring to the infundibulo-pelvic ligaments. The Moschion text in Greek follows — a summary of the gynaecology of Soranos. Wolff or Gesner added Vesalius’ picture of the uterus with the utero-ovarian blood supply.

“The Harmonia Gynaeciorum was contributed by Caspar Wolff. It is in the form of questions and answers, in which respect he imitated Moschion. Wolff’s material is not original but was gathered from Theodorus Priscianus, Moschion and a certain Cleopatra of whom nothing is known. Galen quoted the same Cleopatra on cosmetics without giving his source … Eloy believed that she lived shortly before Christ, and a book entitled De Morbis Mulierum has been attributed to her. Indeed, with the exception of the chapters on the anatomy of the genitalia, the bulk of Wolff’s work is second century gynaecology. Chapter II deals with virginity; and the author states that ‘saluberrima autem est perpetua virginitas’ [perpetual virginity is most wholesome]. He gives advice on how to conceal a spacious vaginal orifice — by the application of parsnip juice one hour before coition.

“To test for virginity, a fumigation of sorrel flowers and charcoal is prescribed; the virgin does not grow pale on breathing the fumes. Wolff attributes sterility to both the male and the female; and is the first to mention hypospadias as a possible cause. If a woman becomes dizzy after the use of a vaginal suppository of galbanum, she will bear children. The method of ascertaining whether the husband or the wife is at fault is unique: pour their respective urines in separate earthen vessels containing barley seeds and place the vessels in a cool place for seven days. The absence of sprouting allocates the fault in sterility cases. Wolff enumerates a dozen vaginal suppositories which aid conception. For contraceptive purposes he recommends the use of nitrum in the vagina after coitus.

“Another contribution, from the surgical treatise of Albucasis, deals for the most part with obstetrics, save for some brief notations on the treatment for obstruction of the vulval orifice, either of congenital nature or resulting from disease. Trotula’s text on gynaecology follows, although Wolff attributed it to a certain Eros, physician to Julia, daughter of Caesar Augustus …

“Nicolaus Rocheus (fi. 1540), a French physician, contributed a lengthy resume from the works of Hippocrates, Aristotle, Pliny, Galen, Aetios, Paulus Aegineta, the Arabians, and from two sixteenth century physicians, Alexander Benedictus (1460-1525) and Leonard Fuchs (1501-1566). The text contains an introduction dated at Paris January 26, 1542, in which he states that the author based the treatise partly on his own experience; but it is entirely lacking in originality, save perhaps in his extensive therapy. The contribution of Luigi Bonacciuoli (d. 1540) deals with conception, miscarriage, delivery, the puerperium, the care of the infant and allied subjects. He was professor of medicine and logic at the University of Ferrara and dedicated his treatise to Lucrezia Borgia, the duchess of Ferrara. The contents of this treatise formed the basis of a series of lectures delivered at the University of Padua. Bonacciuoli’s text was later published under the title Enneas Muliebris, conjointly with De Virginitatis Notis of Severinus Pinaeus (1550-1619). There is not a single item of interest in the gynaecological chapters, except for his belief in astrological influences on female diseases.

“The commentary on menstrual disorders is by Jacobus Sylvius (Jacques Dubois) (1478-1555), professor of anatomy at the University of Paris. It is the only non-obstetrical treatise in the Gynaecia. It is indeed an elaborate essay on menstruation with all its irregularities, ending with a few pages on leucorrhoea, prolapse, suffocation, sterility and conception. The subjects are intelligently discussed, and the author shows a wide range of ancient knowledge. His authorities are Hippocrates, Galen, Aetios and Savonarola. In keeping with ancient gynaecology, Sylvius advises violent coughing spells to remedy an amenorrhoea.

“Rueff’s text deals largely with obstetrics, with a few sketchy references to the more common diseases affecting women. Hieronymus Mercurialis (1530-1606) wrote a treatise De Morbis Muliebribus (1591) — a lengthy and gossipy discussion consisting of four books. The first deals with sterility and uterine tumors, the second with abortions, the third with the puerperium, and the fourth with diseases of the uterus. Each entity is named and defined, the aetiology is considered, the symptoms are discussed, the prognosis is given and the therapy follows. For example, in Book IV, chapter VIII, we note De Pruritu Matricis, Causae Signa, Prognostica, et Curatio. It is maintained that the state of the uterus can best be determined both by touch and by inspection. And for this reason the vaginal speculum is advocated. The author was professor of medicine at Padua, Pisa and Bologna. He was by far a greater dermatologist than a gynaecologist, since he wrote the first book on diseases of the skin (De Morbis Cutaneis). He is often referred to as the founder of the milk theory of puerperal fever, since he was the first to state that the retention of milk was the cause of uterine inflammation. This theory was accepted by Horatius Augenius di Monte Santo (1527-1603) in his Epistolarum et consult ationum medicinalium libri XXIV. Mercuriale was the first to suggest packing the cervix with a sponge strip to dilate it. He was also the first to refer to the lack of fertility among the learned class.

“Giovanni Battista del Monte (Montanus) (1498-1552) begins his contribution with an elaborate discussion of the menses and leucorrhoea, wherein he attempts to differentiate leucorrhoea from gonorrhoea; and although he vaguely flirts with the idea of a venereal disease, he falls into the usual error. In a certain case of sterility he stated that the husband had gonorrhoea, but drew no conclusions. The treatise ends with ten brief case reports on gynaecological subjects. He lectured at the University of Padua, and was the teacher of the famous John Kaye, the Dr. Gains of the Merry Wives of Windsor. Del Monte described a case of vaginal rupture by a midwife, and also reported a case of destruction of the clitoris caused by syphilis.

“Vittore Trincavella (1496-1568) contributed three case reports (Consilia III), covering eight pages of the massive volume. The first deals with a woman who was unable to nourish her children; the second, with a patient subject to peculiar manifestation of the menses; and the third, with a patient troubled with white and pinkish discharge and severe pains. Apparently these Consilia were lectures delivered at the University of Padua, where Trincavella succeeded Montanus as professor …

“Alberto Bottoni (?-1596) wrote a lengthy dissertation on diseases of women, including thirty brief chapters on the physiology of menstruation, the irregularities of the menses and the treatment thereof. In accounting for the absence of a menstrual flow in man, the author stated that menstrual blood was produced only in women. The remaining two subjects discussed by this author were gonorrhoea (the flow of the seed) and uterine prolapse. Bottoni was the first physician at the University of Padua to institute bedside teaching. Jean Le Bon (?-1578) includes but one gynaecological reference in his Therapia Puer per arum — laceration of the perineum at delivery. A large number of drugs, mostly oils and unguents are prescribed, but no mention whatsoever is made of sutures.

“One of the most interesting treatises in the Gynaecia is that of the celebrated French surgeon, Ambroise Paré (1509-1590). It is the only monograph of the Spach edition with pictures of gynaecological instruments, including several of the vaginal speculum. His text also includes the first picture of a submucous fibroid …

“Of interest is Paré’s reference to a third degree laceration and the use of sutures for repair. He stated that sometimes after a forcible delivery the genital parts of the mother were torn asunder, converting two openings into one; in which cases, ‘We should, by means of some stitches, unite the parts unnaturally separated, and treat the wound according to art.’ This suggestion was accepted by his pupil, Guillemeau, who actually repaired a case successfully by using interrupted sutures. Paré recorded the fact that his wife was subject to rectal bleeding at each menstrual period. He described three different types of cervical growths: those resembling mulberry fruit he called morales; those resembling grapes, uvales, and those like warts, vernicales. In discussing ventral hernia he said that a cure could be attained by excision of the peritoneum. This must have been a dangerous procedure in Paré’s time.

“Paré was very ingenious in his gynaecological therapy. He was the first to use oval-shaped pessaries of hammered brass and pessaries made of waxed cork for prolapsed uterus. To keep the vaginal canal open, in order to permit free drainage, Paré designed a special instrument, which was also used to apply aromatic drugs directly to the vaginal parts for the treatment of what he called strangulation of the uterus. The apparatus was made of either gold, silver or brass and was kept in situ by means of a belt around the waist. Paré was also the first surgeon to suggest amputation of the cervix for malignant growths of the parts, but there is no definite proof that he performed the operation. He relates a case where, with the aid of another surgeon, an inverted uterus was cut away, and the patient survived. She died three months later of pleurisy and at autopsy the uterus was not found.

“Francois Rousset’s Hysterotomotokie originally appeared in French, after which Bauhin translated it into Latin, and it is the Latin version which appears in the Gynaeciorum. Bauhin also added a supplement, entitled Appendix varies et novas histories continens, which includes case reports on so-called Caesarean section, bladder incisions, and retained dead foetus in utero (blighted ovum).

“In Bauhin’s supplement there is a brief and illuminating chapter on pessaries, with an illustration. These were made in different shapes – oval or round, some asymmetrical, and some fashioned like a heart. They were held by a cord which was tied to the thigh. Bauhin likewise described a pessary which his mother-in-law, who was well versed in medical subjects, had found useful in prolapse. It was made from the root of a wild grape plant, fashioned like a ball, dipped into a solution of wax, resin and a little turpentine, and shaped to the size desired. Bauhin used the terni pessary in its present connotation. Prior to his time the term was also used to designate vaginal tampons and suppositories. A closing notation states that his brother, John Bauhin, while giving an anatomical demonstration, had observed a bicornate uterus, as is seen in dogs, in a young girl (1565).

“Mauriceus Cordaeus (fl. 1570), professor of medicine at the University of Paris and an able Greek scholar, translated into Latin and annotated the Greek text Diseases of Women. The author, a French Huguenot, got into difficulties with the Catholic authorities and was imprisoned. Cordaeus’ text, as it appears in the Gynaecia of Spach, contains both the original Greek and his Latin commentaries. In his commentaries we find a remarkable instance of an extra-uterine gestation. The patient did not conceive until she was forty years of age. At term the phenomenon of parturition occurred without delivery. The pains stopped, and she recovered. At the age of sixty-eight she became bed-ridden and died three years later. At autopsy a foetus was removed enclosed in a stony crust in the lower abdomen. Similarly, Cordaeus reported the story of the famous Lithopedion of Sens. The story is mentioned by Rousset who added a picture; ‘Readers, we herewith include the picture of the Lithopedion or petrified embryo of the city of Sens. The details of the case are given in full by Cordaeus, whereas the picture is given here, so that we may not fall short of satisfying you.’ 

“The Gynaecia ends with the bulky contribution De Communibus Mulierum Affectionibus of Ludovico Mercado (1520-1606). It is by far the largest single treatise on diseases of women from the Hippocratic age until the publication of Jean Astruc’s Traite des maladies des femmes in 1761. It contains enough material to fill a book the size of Graves’ Gynaecology, without a single illustration. But despite its bulk and comprehensiveness, there is only the rare item of originality. He was the first to mention pregnancy and fibroids as a combined entity. Book II of his treatise on diseases of women, entitled ‘Maladies of Virgins and Widows,’ treats of uterine suffocation, uterine melancholia, uterine epilepsy, and uterine furor. He spoke of uteri fistulae, though in reality he was referring to vesico-vaginal lesions (chapter XXV). He described two strange cases of vicarious bleeding: (a) from the canthus of the eye, (b) from the small and ring finger of an otherwise amenorrhoic nun. He spoke of febris alba or morbus virgineus, which corresponds to chlorosis. He devoted special chapters to diseases of the stomach, head and back due to disturbances of the uterus. He tried to identify hydrops uteri of the ancients with hydatid mole. Scirrhus and cancer of the uterus were due to disorders of menstrual blood. Among the diseases of the external genitals he spoke of ulcerations due to syphilis. He left the treatment of sterility caused by sorcerers to prayers and priests. Mercado was physician to Emperor Philip II of Spain and became one of the most famous practitioners of the sixteenth century” (Ricci, pp. 255-261).

The editor of the present work, Israel Spach (1560-1610), studied medicine at Paris under Jean Riolan the Elder, one of the most fervent defenders of Hippocrates against the attacks of the chemists of that time. After obtaining a doctorate in medicine at Tübingen in 1581, Spach returned to Strasbourg to practise medicine. In 1589 he took over the teaching of physics and Hebrew, as well as medicine, at the Strasbourg Academy (predecessor of the University of Strasbourg). Apart from the present work, Spach’s most important publication is the Nomenclator scriptorum philosophicorum atque philologicorum (Strasbourg, 1598). Covering the works of over 4,000 authors arranged under 400 subject headings, including esoteric subjects like gladiatorial combat, glory, and sobriety, with an emphasis on contemporary writers, this was the most significant subject bibliography of the sixteenth century.

Adams S1517; Cutter and Viets, pp. 29-30; Durling 2254; Garrison and Morton 6013; Norman 1977; Waller 9096; Wellcome 6030. Ricci, The Genealogy of Gynaecology. History of the Development of Gynaecology throughout the Ages 2000 BC – 1800 AD (2nd edition), 1950.



Folio (330 x 212 mm), pp [xxx] 28; 1080 [recte 1082] [34], title in red and black, with large woodcut printer's device, and numerous woodcut illustrations in text; title with light water stain to outer margin, light browning, a very nice copy of a work that usually suffers from heavy browning, in contemporary vellum.

Item #4817

Price: $4,000.00

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