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'Chirurgie' [Surgery], France, 1780

The print on the left shows a trephination in progress and the surgical instruments required for the procedure. The patient’s head is being held down as, in a time before anaesthetics, this surgery would have been painful. The surgery would also have been dangerous as antisepsis was unheard of in this period. The print on the right shows a tourniquet, an instrument vital during amputation surgery. This print is from the 1780 edition of 'Dictionnaire raisonée des sciences des arts et des métiers', edited by Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond D'Alembert. The title translates as Classified Dictionary of Sciences, Arts and Trades. This was the first French encyclopaedia that aimed to introduce new ideas but also create a record of existing techniques such as those in surgery.

Object number:

1984-53/20

 

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    Glossary: print

    Pictorial works produced by transferring images by means of a matrix such as a plate, block, or screen, using any of various printing processes. When emphasizing the individual printed image, use "impressions." Avoid the controversial expression "original prints," except in reference to discussions of the expression's use. If prints are neither "reproductive prints" nor "popular prints," use just "prints."

    Glossary: anaesthetic

    An agent that causes insensitivity to pain. Applied to either the whole body (general anaesthetic) or a particular area or region (local anaesthetic).

    Glossary: antisepsis

    The practice of using antiseptic drugs to eliminate harmful micro-organisms.

    Glossary: amputation

    Removal of part of, or a whole limb by surgery. Used to control pain or the spread of disease in the affected limb.

    Glossary: trephination

    The removal of a circular piece of the top of the head. This is done using a sharp implement or circular saw, and was common in Neolithic times. It is thought that the aim was to release evil demons or spirits from the body in the hope this would cure the person of their illness.

    Glossary: tourniquet

    Designed to compress the blood vessels of a limb. It consists of a bandage, pad and screw. By varying the tightness of the tourniquet, it is possible to control the circulation of blood for a short time.