- Eclectic Selection - October Bulletin 2019
- Books Before 1800
A short list of 30 items including books and ephemera.
- 'A Pox Upon Him' - Books from the Venereology Collection of a leading UK Consultant
We are pleased to offer for sale the following collection comprised of over 100 books on venereology, spanning almost four centuries, and of considerable scholarly and historical interest. The collection includes several works by some of the pioneers in the field, 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 sexually transmitted diseases and in particular upon syphilis and gonorrhoea.
The books are priced individually, and in due course may be available for purchase as such. However, at this stage priority will be given to a sale of the whole collection. Notable faults have been highlighted in purple. A number of books have Institutional ex-libris markings and these have been highlighted in green. The total price of the list (including one or two later editions of works which are highlighted in red) comes to £36,380. We are happy to offer the collection as a whole for £30,000.
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.
- Summer Bulletin
A selection of items to coincide with Firsts – London’s Rare Book Fair
- A Hunger of the Mind
Four Centuries of Women and Science. A joint catalogue issued with Laura Massey of Alembic Rare Books.
“We have a hunger of the mind which asks for knowledge of all around us, and the more we gain, the more is our desire; the more we see, the more we are capable of seeing.” – Maria Mitchell
‘This catalogue comprises 100 items by and about women in every branch of the sciences across four centuries. The big names are here, of course, but many of the entries illuminate women who don’t fit the dominate narrative of science as an enterprise driven by men and only a handful of exceptional women. They include the working scientists who may not have been household names but spent decades contributing to their fields and guiding new generations of researchers. Long-serving educators and university administrators. Translators and popularisers. Entrepreneurs and homemakers. Journalists and essayists who dipped into scientific topics as part of wider-ranging careers. Women who embraced the freedom offered by new technologies, and those who resisted systems of oppression, war, and environmental destruction. Women who were born into scientific privilege and those who broke social, racial, legal and economic barriers in the service of knowledge. All hungered, all saw and fought to see more’.
- A School Day in Books
A Joint Catalogue with Amanda Hall and Susanne Schulz-Faltster on the theme of Education.