Thursday, October 18, 2007

Major surgery of Guy de Chauliac, or, The latest translation from Leonard Rosenman, M.D.: being a lengthy discourse on the history of medicine

Yesterday, we received what is apparently going to be the last published translation of a surgical classic from the prolific translator Leonard D. Rosenman, M.D. Dr. Rosenman sent us a copy of his latest, The Major Surgery of Guy de Chauliac: an English translation (2007, Xlibris Corp.). Of course, that's the title on the book jacket. The interior title page is a reflection of the original work, and a throwback to the good old days when type was cheap, as it were:
The Major Surgery / of Guy de Chauliac / surgeon and master in medicine of the / University of Montpellier / written in 1363 / here re-edited and collated from Latin and French editions / and complemented with illustrations / supplemented with notes and an historical introduction about the Middle Ages and the life and the works of / Guy de Chauliac / by E. Nicaise / professor in the Faculty of Medicine of Paris / surgeon of the Laennec Hospital / senior member of the Supervisorial Council of Public Assistance / "Science grows by additions made possible by beginnings and further developments. / We are as children perched on the shoulders of a giant. Therefore we are at an / advantage because we can see farther than the giant." Guy de Chauliac, Prologue / Paris / Ancienne Librairie Germer, Bailli'ere et Cie. / Felix Alcan, editor / 108 Boulevard Saint-Germain / 1890 / All rights reserved / An English translation / by / Leonard D. Rosenman, M.D. / 2005.
Whew! That may seem like quite a bit of information, but it's followed up by Rosenman's preface, Nicaise's note, a 13-page table of contents, Nicaise's preface, Nicaise's introduction (with its own 2-page table of contents), and Guy de Chauliac's preface. The treatise itself begins on page 115 of the present text, which tops out at 692 pages.

All of which is to say that this book is really more than just The Major Surgery of Guy de Chauliac. Nicaise's introduction alone is a whirlwind history of ten centuries of medicine and surgery, and includes sidebars on topics such as "clock-time" and the church in the Middle Ages, the practice of witchcraft, and the role of women in medicine. As to the last of these, Nicaise notes (with Rosenman's editorializing):
In our time (ie 1890s) the study of Medicine by women is increasing, especially in some countries (ie other than France).
As with his previous translations, Rosenman has again attempted to make the work of past surgical masters accessible to a modern audience. In the letter he sent along with the book, he throws down the gauntlet to a new generation of surgeon-scholars, suggesting that Wurtz's 1563 treatise Practica der Wundartzney might be just the ticket for a translator to tackle. Any takers?

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