Le chirurgien dentiste, ou traité des dents. Ou l’on enseigne les moyens de les entretenir propres & saines, de les embellir, d’en réparer la perte & de remedier à leurs maladies, à celles des geneives & aux accidens qui peuvent survenir aux autres parties voisines des dents. Avec des observations & des reflexions sur plusieurs cas singuliers …

Paris: Jean Mariette, 1728.

First edition of Fauchard’s pioneering work in the field of modern dentistry. “Before Fauchard’s time the profession of dentistry was truly a ‘mystery: for its practitioners had steadfastly refrained from publishing details of their technique and equipment. Fauchard summarized in his pages with numerous illustrations all that was best in the practice of his day and disclosed what had been hitherto jealously guarded secrets. Le Chirurgien Dentiste – ‘The Surgeon-Dentist, or a Treatise on the Teeth with instruction on the means of maintaining them Sound and Healthy’– is in fact the first scientific work on its subject, and modern dentistry begins with its publication. Fauchard describes in the fullest detail the procedure in operative dentistry, in the filling of teeth and most especially in prosthesis, which is that part of dental surgery concerned with artificial dentures, bridge work and the like. He was especially novel in his methods for correcting irregularities and was the first, for example, to describe the use of metal bands or braces for this purpose. The illustrations he gives of the instruments used in his practice show how advanced his methods were. He used antiseptic methods in filling teeth long before the germ theory of infection” (PMM). “The work also contains the earliest use of the word ‘dentiste’ to describe Fauchard’s profession. The first volume is devoted to the development, diseases and care of the teeth; it contains accurate descriptions of over 100 diseases of the mouth, along with explicit methods of treatment. The second volume, profusely illustrated, deals with operative dentistry, detailing procedures for filling teeth, constructing prostheses (dentures, bridgework, etc.) and orthodontia. Le Chirurgien Dentiste enjoyed a great success, and inspired an immediate increase in the number of important books by dental practitioners” (Norman). Rare in such fine condition as this copy. The Norman copy (Christie's New York, June 16, 1998, lot 439, $13,800) had “title patched in first volume, library stamp removed from title in second.”

Born in Brittany, at the age of 15 Fauchard (1678-1761) enlisted in the French navy against the wishes of his parents, and served for three years at sea. It was here that he was informally trained in dentistry, as the assistant to a talented ship's surgeon, Alexander Poteleret. He returned to the Brittany area in 1696, and opened his own practice in the university town of Angers.

“At the time, dentistry was just emerging as a recognized medical specialty, and France was at the forefront of this development. For centuries, superstition and quack science dominated human knowledge about the care of the teeth and gums. Tooth decay was common due to poor hygiene in an era when dental care was non-existent, and the subsequent rotting of the tooth structure eventually led to painful toothaches, which Fauchard noted in his book was an affliction ‘we all have.’ Since ancient times, most people believed that tiny worms invaded the mouth and caused teeth to rot. Toothache remedies ranged from the bizarre—early Egyptians thought that the half-body of a still-warm dead mouse was an effective treatment for pain—to the useless, and most diseased teeth eventually had to be pulled. In an era before anesthesia, this was a painful experience that, if done improperly, could lead to infection and death.

“In the cities of late Renaissance Europe, local barbers extracted diseased teeth for a fee, among the other minor surgical procedures and medical treatments they provided. In the countryside towns, itinerant tooth-pullers occasionally set up shop, and gathered a crowd of potential customers through deceptive practices. But France had been making notable advances in dentistry for many years prior to the time of Fauchard's career. The surgeon Guy de Chauliac, a professor at the University of Montpelier, left an impressive text on surgical procedures behind when he died in 1368, and it discussed several diseases of the mouth. De Chauliac’s work was also the first written mention of the term ‘dentista,’ as well as ‘dentator’ and ‘dentateur,’ all of which referred to those who specialize in surgeries of the mouth. Later, a renowned French barber-surgeon of the sixteenth century, Ambrose Paré, made several advances in the treatment of gums and teeth. Other pioneers elsewhere in Europe, such as the Flemish anatomist Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564) and his Italian cohort, Bartolomeo Eustachi (d. 1574), left behind detailed scientific examinations of the human tooth and surrounding anatomy …

“Fauchard called himself a ‘Chirurgien Dentiste,’ or surgeon dentist, in Angers. He was a talented practitioner, and was said to have been ambidextrous. His reputation grew, and he decided to move to Paris around 1718. Within a short time he was known as one of the best dentists in the city. He used his position to rail against the charlatans who, he claimed, often hoodwinked the crowd with the help of a paid "audience member" who came forward complaining of a toothache. The quack dentists would then surreptitiously insert a tooth wrapped in a membrane containing chicken blood on the pretext of examining the sufferer, and then would wave a hand or ring a bell, and the paid performer would spit the bloody tooth out, to the awe of the crowd.

“Fauchard decided that education was the best way to combat the quackery and superstition that dominated dentistry. He set out to write the definitive book on the subject, and finished Le chirurgien dentiste (The Surgeon Dentist) in 1725. He then asked several respected professionals to review it for accuracy, and it was published in 1728. The Surgeon Dentist is an immense, two-volume work that is 863 pages in length. It was the first scientific text exclusively on the subject of teeth, and was soon translated into other languages and became the standard text for the profession. ‘The teeth in the natural condition are the most polished and hardest of all the bones of the human body; but at the same time they are the most subject to diseases which cause acute pain, and sometimes become very dangerous,’ Fauchard wrote in his introduction.

“In his book, Fauchard attempted to dispel many of the commonly held beliefs about teeth. He railed against the [charlatans], and those who claimed that a tooth was proving to be difficult to pull because it was an ‘eye’ tooth. People actually believed that some teeth were connected by nerves or muscles to the eye, and that pulling such a tooth would result in a loss of vision. Fauchard wrote about less ethical practitioners who were known to put acids on a tooth, which caused them to decay; when the patient returned with a complaint of a toothache, the dentist could then extract the tooth for a fee. He also warned that some practitioners charged for gold fillings that were actually tin with a layer of gold on top. Others, he noted, had no knowledge of dentistry at all. Cutlers, or knife-makers, sometimes came up with new tools, and ‘apparently the instruments which they make gives them an itch to try them,’ wrote Fauchard, and mentioned one such trades-person he knew of in Paris. ‘This particular man who had seen several charlatans operate, thinking that it would be as easy to draw teeth as to make knives, has joined the ranks … if he does not always take out the tooth whole he does manage to take a piece of it.’

“Fauchard’s book described five kinds of instruments that dentists should use. The gum lancet was used to separate the tooth or root from the gum; a punch pushed the tooth inward; pincers ‘pinched’ it out for easier removal; a lever could lift it, but Fauchard noted that this was more likely to break the tooth than extract it. The last standard tool he cited was known as the pelican, named for its hooks that pointed inward like pelican’s beak, and he noted that this should be the primary method of extraction. Fauchard also suggested that instead of pulling a tooth, it would be better to scrape the diseased cavity clean and then fill it with lead or gold leaf. His text contained detailed procedures for filling and treating cavities. Removing the diseased part could be done with a primitive type of drill that he invented. His was made from catgut (actually treated cord made from the intestines of sheep or goat) which was used for violin strings; he twisted his around a cylinder, which produced a rotating motion that could dig out the diseased parts of a tooth.

“Fauchard disdained the still-prevalent idea that worms caused decay, suggesting instead that sugary foods were to be avoided. He provided recipes for mixtures to treat infections of the mouth, which used items commonly available from apothecaries, such as oil of cloves and cinnamon. One of his more unusual recommendations to patients, however, was ‘rinsing out the mouth every morning and also evening … with some spoonfuls of their own urine, just after it has been passed … it is true that it is not very agreeable, except inasmuch as it brings distinct relief.’ The use of urine was not entirely unusual at the time, and had persisted in many previous cultures and eras throughout history as a medical remedy.

“Some of the innovations that Fauchard devised were chronicled in The Surgeon Dentist, while others came later in his lengthy career. He devised sets of dentures that used real teeth, with springs to connect them, and wrote about crowns and bridges, which could either replace or cover parts of teeth that were missing. In his book are some of his more innovative ideas about how to fasten these to the root of the tooth with threads of silk, linen, or metal; some of these techniques were still used in modern times. He also suggested ideas for straightening crooked teeth, which would make him the founder of modern orthodontics. His book also offered guidelines for the best treatment position for patients and dentists. Oftentimes the dentist sat on the floor, with a patient's head on his lap. Fauchard recommended using a chair instead, in which a patient could recline. The dentist should be behind the patient, not in front; this helped reduce fear in the patient, he believed, and did not block the light the dentist needed to see inside the mouth” (Encyclopedia of World Biography).

“Pierre Fauchard worked on his famous manuscript on and off while practicing as a certified ‘mâitre’ (master) chirurgien-dentist. His manuscript was over 600 written pages in 1723, when he first registered it. However, it took him five more years to bring it to its final form of 783 pages, after making corrections in response to feedback from 19 of his peers, highly prominent members of society and the medical profession, pre-eminent scholars in the fields of science and healing. Many of them referred patients to Fauchard; some were his patients. Fauchard sought and obtained their endorsements for his book …

“The final manuscript of the first edition, kept today at the Library of the School of Medicine in Paris, has 783 pages. Upon inspection, one finds the handwriting of at least three people in the manuscript. The main body of the text shows handwriting that most likely belongs to Fauchard himself—not just because it appears throughout the manuscript, but because of specific spelling errors not uncommon in the 18th century. Fauchard did not have a formal education. He had to work from an early age. Furthermore, spelling errors were not considered a major embarrassment in 1723. A second script is visible in the margins of the manuscript. It is more mature and erudite, and is most likely that of Jean Devaux (1649-1729), the first reviewer of Fauchard’s manuscript. The third appears to be more carefully written, most likely rewritten notes by Fauchard following changes that were suggested by reviewers …

“Pierre Fauchard was hailed by his contemporaries as a pioneer and became a pre-eminent ‘Chirurgien-Dentiste’, the term he coined and used for himself. This new term was meant to create a ‘pecking order’, to distinguish those with surgical training from those untrained. Dentistry was practiced by a variety of individuals, some formally trained, some not at all. The hierarchy that started with physicians and surgeons was thus extended to trained surgeon dentists and to untrained dentists, some less reputable than others (barbers, blacksmiths, itinerant handymen, or even charlatans)” (Spielman).

PMM 186; Grolier/Medicine 40; Norman 768; Lilly 111; En Français dans le Texte 142; Heirs of Hippocrates 785; Garrison-Morton 3671 (‘one of the greatest books in the history of the subject’); NLM/Blake, p.144; Waller 10620; Weinberger, Dentistry I, pp. 297-312; Wellcome III, p. 12. Spielman, ‘The birth of the most important 18th century dental text: Pierre Fauchard’s Le Chirurgien Dentiste,’ Journal of Dental Research 86 (2007), pp. 922-926.



Two volumes, 12mo (162 x 93 mm), fine contemporary calf with ricly gilt spines, front hinges with small crack, corner with light wear, but a very fine and completley unrestored copy, engraved frontispiece portrait of Fauchard by J. B. Scotin after J. Le Bel (often lacking), pp. [48] [1] 2-456 [32] and 8 plates; [10] [1] 2-346 [26] and 32. Clean a fresh internally. Very rare, and even more so in such fine condition.

Item #5119

Price: $49,500.00

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