Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room

Extreme Makeovers From The Sixteenth Century

Tagliacozzi, Gaspare (1545-1599). De curtorum chirurgia per insitionem, libri due. Venice, 1597.

taglio-2a_small.jpgAlthough Tagliacozzi was not the first plastic surgeon (it had been practiced in India centuries earlier) he is usually credited as the first modern practitioner of the art. Loss of facial parts from dueling, street fights, and syphilis were common during the 16th century. His work covers the anatomy of the nose and includes sections on the restoration of the nose, lips, and ears by means of autografting; it is replete with stunning engravings illustrating the techniques and instruments used in the various procedures. The popularity of the work caused it to be plagiarized almost immediately. However, Tagliacozzi’s work was opposed on religious grounds by such authorities as Paré and Fallopius and condemned by the church whose authorities exhumed his body and reburied it in unconsecrated ground.