PRÉCIS DE L'ART DES ACCOUCHEMENS en faveur des Sages-Femmes. A Angers, de l’Imprimerie de C. P. Mame, Imprimeur de Monsieur... et se trouve à Paris, Chez P. F. Didot, jeune, Imprimeur de Monsieur... Avec Approvation et Privilege du Roi.
1782. 8vo, pp. xii, 294, [ii] errata; pp. 47 and 235 are cancels; with appealing woodcut head- and tail-pieces; some light foxing and soiling throughout, but otherwise clean and crisp; in later full marbled calf, spine in compartments with raised bands, tooled in gilt with red morocco label lettered in gilt, all edges red, head and tail of spine, joints, and extremities very lightly rubbed, one corner a little worn; with later 20th century gift inscription on front free endpaper; an appealing copy. First edition of this manual of obstetrics for midwives, written by Michel Chevreul (1745-1845), father of the chemist and founder of colour theory, Michel Eugène Chevreul (1786-1889). A noted surgeon and obstetrician, Chevreul helped to establish obstetrical schools in Anjou and Touraine, and was director of the medical school at Angers, where the present edition was published.
One of the ever growing number of 'man-midwife', or accoucheurs that emerged during the eighteenth century, Chevreul hoped that his simple and accessible book on the art of midwifery would help in some way to curb the ignorant and indeed pernicious practices found amongst poorly educated rural sages-femmes. Written shortly after the foundation of various provincial teaching establishments, notably in the province of Tours, he strongly advocates the benefits of improved education, to prevent unnecessary suffering. This simple work is divided into five sections, Chevreul having deliberately avoided the use of over complicated physiological or anatomical descriptions. The first section provides a basic introduction to the female anatomy, whilst explaining ways to assess the various stages of pregnancy, and containing a description of the foetus, the placenta, and the umbilical cord. Chevreul identifies four main types of childbirth, "le prématuré, en naturel, en laborieux, et en contre nature". Section two discusses natural childbirth, and how to distinguish between true and false labour pains. Difficult labours and presentations are discussed in the third section, i.e. those which present a danger to the mother or child due to internal complications and which might require some form of intervention, possibly by the use of instrument. More complicated deliveries, such as breach-birth are covered in section four, with the final section outlining abortions, premature births, false pregnancies and extra-uterine pregnancies.
A second edition of the present work, Chevreul’s only book publication, was published in 1826. An attractive and scarce manual.
Bibliography: R.C.O.G. 15; Wellcome II, p. 338 (1826 Paris edition); OCLC cites further copies at the NLM, Yale, Chicago, Pennsylvania, the Huntington, the BnF.