A COLLECTION OF BOOKS FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION. I am pleased to offer for sale a collection comprised of over 100 books on venereology and sexually transmitted diseases, spanning almost four centuries (from 1556- 1931) and of considerable scholarly and historical interest. The collection includes several works by some of the pioneers in the field from across Europe and the USA, and throws a light upon the complex medical, social, moral, and even political dimensions of the branch of medicine concerned with the study and treatment of such diseases and in particular upon syphilis and gonorrhoea. In recent years, the study of syphilis and venereaology has become the focus of renewed interest and significant academic and historical research, thus making the collection on offer a valuable multi-disciplinary research tool, as well as a potential source for future exhibitions and associated opportunities for out-reach and educational projects.
1906. A full catalogue of the collection is available upon request, and can be found on my website. Notable faults have been highlighted in purple. A number of books have Institutional ex-libris markings and these have been highlighted in green. Further images and information provided upon request. Whatever the true history of syphilis, there can be little doubt that it was in the late 15th and early 16th centuries that the disease first became a serious public health concern, and was to become the focus of a vast corpus of literature over the centuries, penned by both surgeons and physicians alike. Indeed it was not until 1906 that the cause of the suffering was finally identified under the microscope – Treponema pallidum, a spirochete bacterium that enters the bloodstream and, if left untreated, attacks the nervous system, the heart, internal organs and the brain; it was not until the 1940s and the arrival of penicillin that there was an effective cure. Throughout history it has infected (or been suspected to have affected) both the great, the good, and the infamous, including Cesare Borgia, Baudelaire, Flaubert, Beethoven, Tolstoy, Delius, Nietzche, Karen Blixen, and Hitler. It has been interwoven into plays and novels – indeed it was a fascination for Shakespeare (who may well have been a sufferer also); and it continues to pose a serious threat to public health, with experts noting only last year that infection rates in both the UK and the US were once again seeing a significant rise. It is important to remember, that when early modern practitioners spoke of the venereal or French disease (or indeed the Spanish, Italian or American disease) that this single concept subsumed many conditions that we now separate today: syphilis, gonorrhoea, chancre, and a host of other urethral and genital complaints. Whilst some believed it was brought over by Columbus, two theories of origin dominated 15th and 16th century venereological literature: that the pox arose either from divine punishment or from astrological misfortune. Experience quickly demonstrated that the new disease was sexually transmitted. Various theories developed, including that it could be spread by sharing utensils, sheets, or drinking vessels, but the moment the pox became linked to sex, it became associated with women. Various myths sprung up, focusing upon the disease stemming from a single source during France’s siege of Naples in 1494, the epidemic spreading through both armies and thus across Europe. Nations blamed nations, and the very nature of the disease, affecting the ‘organs of generation’, played not only on public health fears, but raised wider political, military, and social anxieties, many of which were reflected in published works. It led to the castigation and segration of prostitutes and women, challenged medical science, and awoke a wide-spread moral panic that affected all areas of society. In recent years, partly as a result of the Aids crisis (the 20th Century equivalent epidemic, which saw the similar arrival out of nowhere of an incurable and seemingly untreatable, fatal, and highly contagious sexually transmitted disease), the study of syphilis and venereaology has become the focus of renewed interest and significant academic and historical research, thus making the collection on offer a valuable multi-disciplinary research tool, as well as a potential source for future exhibitions and associated opportunities for out-reach and educational projects.
The books are priced individually, and in due course may be available for purchase as such. However, at this stage (July 2019) priority will be given to a sale of the whole collection.