OBSERVATIONS SUR LA MANIERE DE TAILLER DEANS LES SEXES POUR L’EXTRACTION DE LA PIERRE, pratiquée par Frere Jacques. Nouveau System de la Circulation du sang par le trou ovale dans le foetus humain, avec les réponses aux objections qui ont été faites contre cette hypothese. A Paris, Chez Jean Boudot, Libraire ordinaire de l’Academie Royale des Sciences... Avec Privilege du Roy.
1700. 12mo in 8s and 4s, pp. , 187, , [iv] half-title and errata leaf, ix, explanatory leaves for six copper-engraved plates (nos 1-7 and containing 8 figures),  blank, pp. 90 ie 120, (pagination error after p. 96), ; with a couple of small woodcut figures within text, and woodcut head- and tail pieces; lightly browned throughout with some occasional light foxing and soiling, first two plates a little oxidised but not affecting image; without the front free endpaper; four lines of ms notes, seemingly late 18th century, on rear pastedown; 19th century sheep back over marbled boards, spine in compartments with raised bands, tooled and lettered in gilt, small nick with loss at head of upper joint, upper joint starting but holding firm, joints and extremities lightly rubbed and worn; with engraved armourial book-plate on front pastedown ‘Ex Libris Henr. Petit Doct. Med. Suessionæi’; a good copy. First edition of this important work by the distinguished French surgeon and comparative anatomist, Jean Méry (1645-1722), dealing principally with his theories ‘de la manière dont la circulation du sang se fait dans le foetus humain’ (p. 1). Whilst ultimately his views were proved to be erroneous, the work is important in the history of circulation, for the ensuing controversy and long-running debate which it provoked for a number of years within the French medical community and Academy of Sciences.
Published in the year that Méry became chief surgeon at the Hôtel-Dieu, the work is divided into two sections, and whilst the title-page suggests that his discussion on lithotomy will dominate the work, it is in fact his observations on blood circulation in the foetus which form the majority of the volume, spanning 187 pages and including seven finely engraved copper plates on six leaves. Although having worked closely with Claude Perrault (1613-1688) and, in particular, J. G. Duverney (1648-1730) on a number of comparative anatomical works, Méry and Duverney had become estranged after 1693 over their differing interpretations of mammalian foetal circulation. He strongly opposed Duverney’s theories, and claimed, wrongly, that the blood flowed from the left to the right through the foramen ovale in the interatrial septum, having initially formulated this theory from a false analogy between a tortoise heart and a foetal mammalian heart. ‘The outstanding differences between Méry's view and the traditional ones were his beliefs that the so-called valve of the foramen ovale was not a valve at all but the caudal part of the inter-atrial septum, that the venous return from the left lung of the foetus was the only blood which passed through the foramen ovale and that it did so from left to right, and that there was a considerable pulmonary blood flow in utero’ (Franklin, Jean Méry and his ideas on fetal blood flow, Annals of Science, 1945, 5, pp. 203-228). His ‘physiological views were derived partly from the literature, partly from his own experimental and clinical work, partly from his anatomical findings, and partly from the results of injection of air or of fluids into the vessels of soft anatomical specimens’ (ibid). ‘Méry erred in assuming that the cross section of an artery is the only factor determining the amount of blood that can flow through it. He compounded this error by his method of measuring the relative cross sections of the arteries. He may have used fresh preparations for his measurements on cows and sheep. For those on human beings, he probably used preserved specimens, dried ones as a rule. The results were inconsistent at best’ (Encyclopedia.com).
Méry includes a number of published responses to his theories in the present work, as well as discussing Harvey’s view, one that he shared, that blood which passes through the arterial canal goes from the pulmonary artery to the aorta, thus escaping the lung. The debate was to rage for some two decades, with numerous arguments presented on both sides of the controversy. Méry held his views against all opposition until his death.
In the second, separately paginated, section of the work, Méry turns his attention to lithotomy, and in particular to the work of the famous itinerant lithotomist Frere Jacques Beaulieu (also known as Jacques Baulot 1651-1720). A Dominican friar, with scant knowledge of anatomy, in 1697 he was was invited to demonstrate his methods under the supervision of Méry, who at his own private practice in Paris had gained a particular reputation for the procedure. Jacques was first required to demonstrate his method on a cadaver and afterwards allowed to conduct lithotomies on patients. Out of 71 patients 53% died from complications with Méry conducting autopsies to identify the causes. This led to Frere Jacques being debarred from conducting surgeries in Paris.
Born in 1645, the son of a master surgeon, Méry studied at the Hotel Dieu, graduating with a thesis on the anatomy of the ear. He was appointed surgeon there in 1681 later becoming chief surgeon. As his career progressed he received appointments as chief surgeon to the queen and senior surgeon at the Invalides hospital for veterans. A dedicated teacher, he stressed the importance of careful observation, and he was the driving force behind the building of the surgical amphitheatre and the establishment of courses in anatomy and surgery. He described several structures, such as the eustachian tube and the urethral glands, for which he received no recognition in that they were later described by other investigators and named after them. In Paris he was known to have an extensive anatomy cabinet of human and animal specimens that he himself had carefully dissected, notably a display of nerves from origin to insertion that he had spent many years to dissect.
Bibliography: Garrison-Morton online, 11894; Krivatsy 7835 (which notes a variant issue of the same year with imprint ‘Imprimé à Paris, et se vend à Amsterdam, Chez Jean Louis Delorme); Osler 3393; Wellcome IV, p. 120; OCLC locates further copies at Cornell, the NYAM, UCLA, Yale, Minnestoa, Duke, McGill, Texas, Oxford, Londn, BnF.