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Lancets in mother of pearl case, England, 1750-1850

Inside this mother-of-pearl case is space for four lancets. Lancets were generally used to open veins during bloodletting, a centuries old practice once used to treat a wide range of medical conditions. The owner’s name, J B Estlin, is engraved into the lid. The lancets are made from steel and have protective tortoiseshell cases.

Object number:

A190615

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Glossary:

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.