A 376-Year-Old WORK of WISDOM

A 376-Year-Old WORK of WISDOM

Des Moines University’s Kendall Reed Rare Book Room recently acquired a rare, first English edition copy of The Workes of That Famous Chirurgion Ambrose Parey [sic], printed in 1634. French surgeon Ambroise Paré (1510-1590) made innumerable contributions to the field of medicine and is considered a father of modern surgery. On the battlefield, Paré resurrected an old but rarely used concoction of egg yolk, oil of roses and turpentine to treat wounds in lieu of boiling elderberry oil. He also successfully disproved the theory that Bezoar Stones contained magical healing properties. In addition, Paré introduced groundbreaking work in obstetrics and developed the Bec de Corbin, an early version of contemporary hemostats.

The Workes of That Famous Chirurgion Ambrose Parey features more than 300 beautiful and weird woodcut illustrations that supplement his writings on the plague, popular myths (such as the use of unicorn horns to treat illness), materia medica, 16th century medical instruments and much more. The tome is available for viewing in the Rare Book Room along with other books and journals on the history of osteopathy, podiatry, surgical anatomy, military medicine and medical education. Dating from the 17th century to present, DMU’s rare book collection is an important resource for medical students, practitioners and historians.

The Paré book and other items in the collection “allow students to feel, smell and imagine the past and what physicians of that time endured to assure the progress that we benefit from today,” says Kendall Reed, D.O., dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine.

“Books of this era are rapidly disappearing from the market and form the cornerstone of any rare book collection,” he adds. “We must diligently and purposely continue to acquire rarities such as this for our next generation of physicians. It’s a part of our rich culture at DMU that we need to not just preserve but expand upon. Time is of the essence.”

Information courtesy of DMU Archivist Lindsey MacAllister, M.A.; the DMU Archives and the Kendall Reed Rare Book Room.

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