Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room

Sixteenth Century Field Surgery

Hans von Gersdorff’s, Feldtbuch der Wunderartzney Opening Hans von Gersdorff’s, Feldtbuch der Wunderartzney to this illustration leaves little doubt as to the subject matter at hand. This early, “Field-book of wound surgery” is one of the most important works on 16th century surgery. Gersdorff (1455-1529) was a military surgeon whose writings are based primarily on his own experiences in numerous battles, including the Burgundian War of 1476. “The practical nature of Gersdorff’s book and its fine illustrations caused it to become very popular and it was frequently referred to, widely quoted, and freely plagiarized” (Heirs of Hippocrates). The woodcut shown here (believed to be the work of Hans Wechtlin, and commonly referred to as the “wound man”) depicts the kinds of injuries likely encountered on the battlefield. In addition, each wound marks the site of a possible arterial ligation. The book also includes sections on anatomy, leprosy, and medications. The edition in the John Martin Rare Book Room is from 1530.

For more information about the John Martin Rare Book Room please visit the Web site at http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/hardin/rbr/ or contact Ed Holtum, Assistant Director for Administrative Services and Special Collections, at 335-9154 or edwin-holtum@uiowa.edu.