Tagliacozzi, Gaspare (1545-1599). De Curtorum Chirurgia per insitionem, libri duo... Venice, Gaspare Bindoni, 1597.

Tagliacozzi, Gaspare (1545-1599). De Curtorum Chirurgia per insitionem, libri duo... Venice, Gaspare Bindoni, 1597.

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Tagliacozzi, Gaspare (1545-1599).

De Curtorum Chirurgia per insitionem, libri duo. In quibus ea omnia, quae ad huius Chirurgia, Narium scilicet, Aurium, ac labiorum per insitionem restaurandorum cum Theoricen, tum Practicen pertinere videbantur....

Venice, Gaspare Bindoni, 1597.

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The first printed book on plastic surgery

Tagliacozzi, Gaspare (1545-1599).

De Curtorum Chirurgia per insitionem, libri duo. In quibus ea omnia, quae ad huius Chirurgia, Narium scilicet, Aurium, ac labiorum per insitionem restaurandorum cum Theoricen, tum Practicen pertinere videbantur.... Venice, Gaspare Bindoni, 1597.

Two parts in one volume, folio (322x215 mm). Printed on large paper. Collation: †6, χ2, ††8, A-H6, Aa-Hh6; Aaa-Ddd6, a-b6, c4. [32], 94, [2], 95, [1]; 47, [33] pages. Roman and italic type. Engraved architectural frontispiece attributed to Oliviero Gatti (1579–1648), including on the sides the standing figures of Hippocrates and Galen, on the upper panel the arms of the dedicatee Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, and on the lower one Bindoni's device. A different printer's device on the following printed title-page. Woodcut illustrations in the text, including twenty-two full-page woodcuts with keys on opposite pages. Woodcut decorated initials. Contemporary limp vellum, traces of ties. Smooth spine. A good, wide-margined copy, with engraved frontispiece almost untrimmed. A few leaves uniformly browned, pale waterstain to the lower margin of the first leaves, light foxing in places. Slip of paper with a note dated 1616 pasted onto the verso of the title-page.

Provenance: Cardinal Carlo Oppizzoni (1769-1855; ex-libris on the front pastedown), from 1802 Archbishop of Bologna.

A landmark in the history of surgery: the first edition – presented here in its first issue, without the license to print dated 9 October 1596 on the verso of the title-page – of the first book devoted exclusively to plastic surgery and reconstruction, written by Gaspare Tagliacozzi, a pupil of Girolamo Cardano and professor of surgery and anatomy at Bologna.

The treatise describes in detail surgical operations to repair the ears, nose and lips, employing skin grafts taken from the upper arm of the patient. The De curtorum chirurgia per insitionem (On the Surgical Restoration of Defects by Grafting) is considered one of the most important medical books of the sixteenth century. It enjoyed wide and enduring popularity, owing to the fact that plastic surgery and reconstruction – and most especially rhinoplasty – were much in demand in the age, particularly as remedies for both the injuries resulting from duels and from the deformities caused by syphilis. It was pirated by the Venetian printer Roberto Meietti in the same year, and in 1598 it was reprinted in a smaller size in Frankfurt.

“Tagliacozzi's most important innovation was the development of a means of replacing the missing nose, for a person without nose is bound to be 'unhappy' and his unhappiness could well make him or her ill. It also marked that person as not only deseased but also infectious, whether or not actual 'infection' as we know it, was present. The stigma was real enough. The noseless were poluted and polluting. Here the problem of the relationship of reconstructive surgery to aestetic surgery appears at the very 'origin' of aestetic surgery. It seems self-evident, that anyone without a nose will be unhappy, and the reconstruction of the nose will make that person happier and therefore healthier. Tagliacozzi recognized this” (S. L. Gilman, Making the Body Beautiful, pp. 67-68).

This Venetian edition is also famous for its illustrative apparatus, with twenty-two full-page woodcuts depicting surgical instruments as well as textual explanations of various surgical procedures. These woodcuts were skilfully executed by an anonymous designer, perhaps one of numerous artists in the circle patronized by Duke of Mantua Vincenzo Gonzaga, the financial backer and dedicatee of Tagliacozzi's work.

This copy of the De curtorum chirurgia belongs to a limited issue printed by the Venetian publisher Bindoni on large and thick paper. “There are two issues of De curtorum chirurgia. The majority of copies, printed on ordinary paper, have an imprimatur on the verso of the title-page. Other copies, which lack the imprimatur, are printed on large and thick paper that can be distinguished by its watermarks. These copies were undoubtedly intended as presentation copies” (Norman).

Adams T-59; Mortimer Italian, 488; Cushing T-16; Durling 4310; Garrison-Morton 5734; Heirs of Hippocrates 379; Norman 2048; Waller 9541; Wellcome 6210; The Illustrated Bartsch, 41, p. 76; M.T. Gnudi - J. P. Webster, The Life and Times of Gaspare Tagliacozzi, New York 1950, pp. 183-216; S. L. Gilman, Making the Body Beautiful. A Cultural History of Aestetic Surgery, Princeton 1999, pp. 66-73; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 172.