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Six lancets and a silver carrying case, England, 1750-1850

The lancets were used for bloodletting, illustrated by the scene engraved on to the silver carrying case. Bloodletting was once a popular technique used to treat a whole range of medical complaints. Each of the six steel lancets has a tortoiseshell covering to protect the blades from damage and keep them sharp, as well as providing a handle for the user. These were valued tools for medical practitioners and were often carried in expensive cases such as this one.

Object number:

A647881

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    Glossary: humours

    The fluids of the body whose balance is essential to well-being. They are blood, choler (yellow bile), phlegm, and melancholy (black bile). The system of the humours was closely related to the theory of the elements by the Ancient Greeks (especially Hippocrates), who were the first society to widely embrace the theory and apply it to medical practice. In Ancient Roman culture, the theory of the humours was embraced by Galen. During the neo-classical revival in western culture, the theory of the humours was a dominant form of medical practice. Its legacy in the form of activities such as blood-letting continued in England into the eighteenth century.

    Glossary: lancets

    A surgical instrument of various forms, commonly sharp-pointed and two-edged. The lancet is used in venesection (the act of opening a vein for bloodletting), and in opening abscesses.

    Glossary: bloodletting

    Puncturing a vein in order to withdraw blood. A popular medical practice for over two thousand years. Bloodletting often involved withdrawing large quantities of blood in the belief that this would cure or prevent many illnesses and diseases. The practice has been abandoned for all but a few very specific conditions.

    Glossary: fever

    A rise in body temperature above normal. Fever usually occurs as a natural response to infection.