Birthing in the 16th Century
Jakob Rüff (1500-1558) was not the first physician to write a birthing manual for midwives but his book, De conceptu et generatione hominis, first published in 1554 in both Latin and German was certainly one of the most famous and widely used. Lithotomist, surgeon, obstetrician and playwright, was the town physician of Zurich where his book was obligatory reading for anyone delivering a child in the canton.
To modern eyes, the crude woodcuts used to illustrate the position and placement of the fetus appear somewhat whimsical but the anatomical drawings of the reproductive organs (many based on Vesalius) are often quite accurate.
Rüff covers every aspect of labor, delivery, and postnatal care, including advice for treating the newly pregnant:
“Before all things let them be of a merry heart, …them give their endevour to moderat joyes and sports …them use moderate exercise, let them not leape, or rise up suddenly, let them not runne also, neither dance nor ride, neither let them lace or gird in themselves hard or straight, or lift up any heavie burden with their hands.”
All images from 1580, Frankfurt edition. Book is available for view in the John Martin Rare Book Room.