Manuscript Notebook for cases of ovarian and other abdominal tumours, with Autograph manuscript (5 items)

Wells, Spencer

Published by John Churchill, London, 1865
Soft cover
From Jeremy Norman's historyofscience (Novato, CA, U.S.A.)

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Only Extant Example of a Spencer Wells Ovariotomy Casebook Wells, Thomas Spencer (1818-97). (1) Mr. Spencer Wells's note book for cases of ovarian and other abdominal tumours. Printed casebook completed in ink ms. in Spencer Wells's hand. 8vo. 25 [7]pp., 17 of which contain annotations by Wells. Full-page diagrams in text. London: John Churchill, 1865. 203 x 130 mm. Self-wrappers (partially split at spine), stitched as issued. Lightly browned throughout, a few small ink spots. Very good. (2) Diseases of the ovaries: Their diagnosis and treatment. 8vo. xvi, 376pp., errata slip at p. xvi. London: Churchill, 1865. 215 x 139 mm. Original cloth, a little worn & soiled, hinges cracking. Lightly browned, but very good. Presentation Copy, inscribed by Wells on the title: "Thompson Forbes Esq. with the author's kind regards"; see below. (3) Diseases of the ovaries: Their diagnosis and treatment. 8vo. xxiv, 478pp., erratum slip at p. 429. Lacking title-page. Text wood engravings. London: Churchill, 1872. 215 x 137 mm. Original cloth, worn, hinges weak. Lightly browned, occasional foxing. (4) Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society. . . . Three hundred additional cases of ovariotomy, with remarks on drainage of the peritoneal cavity, by T. Spencer Wells. 8vo. 4pp. [London: Spottiswoode & Co., 1877] 216 x 140 mm. Unbound as issued. Creased where folded, edges a little soiled and frayed, but very good. (5) Typed letter signed dated 15th February 1965 from Wells's biographer, John Shepherd, discussing this casebook. 1 sheet, 176 x 203 mm., creased where folded. Apparently the Only Surviving Example of the detailed casebooks maintained by the great British ovariotomist Spencer Wells on each of his ovariotomy patients. Wells began performing ovariotomies in the late 1850s, a time when ovariotomy (and indeed any abdominal operation) was looked upon with great disfavor due to high mortality rates. "Wells was well aware of the opposition to such surgery and of the obloquy which would be heaped upon him is he was unsuccessful. He pledged himself publicly to record every detail of his cases, whether successes or failures. By doing so he aimed to establish the operation as a reputable and safe procedure and to answer the controversies about such matters as the incision and the management of the pedicle. He hoped also to prove that abdominal exploration was a justifiable means of establishing a diagnosis" (Shepherd, Spencer Wells, p. 56; also see pp. 55-68 and plates 7 & 8). To help him carry out his pledge, Wells had special notebooks printed in 1864, with printed headings under which he would fill in the details of each case, and diagrams in which he could sketch the locations of tumors, the patient's post-operative condition, etc. Wells certainly made use of these casebooks when compiling his monumental series of statistical reviews of ovariotomy cases (1863, 1865, 1867, 1869, 1871, 1872, 1877 & 1880), as well as his two volumes on Diseases of the Ovaries (1865 and 1872; G-M 6056), which contain narrative reports and statistical tables of 500 cases of ovariotomy performed between 1856 and 1872. Wells's great success as an ovariotomist was due in part to his conduct of the operation. He made many changes in the operating room and equipment, scheduling of the operation, and training of nurses to assist; he particularly stressed cleanliness, anticipating Lister. Wells has also been called the originator of modern abdominal surgery (by D'Arcy Power), because the technique governing the operation of ovariotomy, combined with Listerian principles, has been applied to operative procedures on all the other abdominal viscera. It was largely through Wells's efforts that ovariotomy became accepted by other surgeons as a safe and respectable operation. Although Wells maintained casebooks throughout the majority of his career as an ovariotomist, the one that we are offering here appears to be the only one extant. It is printed on writing paper, and has sections headed "State at First Visit," "History" (early and progressive symptoms), "Diagnosis" (left blank here), "Operation," "After-Treatment and Progress," and "Subsequent History" (also left blank). This casebook records Wells's 124th ovariotomy, performed in February 1864 on a Mrs. Mary Willoughby, who had been recommended to Wells by the surgeon Thompson Forster. Forster was one of three people attending the operation, and Wells later presented him with the copy of his Diseases of the Ovaries (1865) that we are offering with the casebook; it is probable that the 1872 Diseases of the Ovaries that we are also offering was likewise a gift from Wells to Forster. In a letter written in 1965 to a former owner of the casebook, Wells's biographer John Shepherd stated that "You will be interested to hear that I have failed to find any other examples of the note-book completed by Spencer Wells. . . . Your document is, as far as I am aware, unique." Shepherd included reproductions of two of the casebook's pages in his biography of Wells (1965). Shepherd's letter is also offered with the casebook, as is a brief report issued by the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society on the publication of Wells's Three Hundred Additional Cases of Ovariotomy: With Remarks on Drainage of the Peritoneal Cavity (1877), the seventh in his series of statistical reports. Bookseller Inventory # 30494

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Manuscript Notebook for cases of ovarian and...

Publisher: John Churchill, London

Publication Date: 1865

Binding: Soft cover

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