Monday, 25 November 2013

Surgery and Medical Treatment by a Royalist Surgeon at the Battle of Worcester 1651

In 1676 Serjeant-Chirurgeon Richard Wiseman published his Severall Chirurgicall Treatises. Richard Wiseman was a surgeon who served in the Royalist army during the English Civil War, then as a Navy surgeon, and after the Restoration, acted as one of Charles II’s surgeons. His book covers such topics as a treatise on tumours, a treatise on ulcers, haemorrhoids, the King’s Evill, a treatise on wounds, gun-shot wounds, fractures, and venereal disease. In this week blog we look at just a few of the cases which he encountered.

The battle of Worcester 1651. Photograph by David Morrison. Reproduced by permission of the Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

Just before the Battle of Worcester, Wiseman was treating soldiers wounded in skirmishes. One man had a musket ball lodged on the right side of his head. Wiseman’s servant assistant William Clarke, whilst dressing the wound, felt the musket ball in the skull. He called over Wiseman who noticed the man could not speak. They made a circular incision, allowing the trapped blood to escape. Having cleaned the wound with a sponge dipped in vinegar they filled the gap with lint. When the bleeding had stopped some time later, they tried unsuccessfully to get the bullet out. Using an instrument called a Trepan; they cut away another hole nearby, which again released more trapped blood. This enabled them to pull out the bullet and the depressed bone fragments. They now saw that there was a large wound in the Dura Mater (one of the outer layers surrounding the brain). Nevertheless they dressed the wounds in the skull and bandaged the head. Whilst they did this, the man suddenly regained consciousness, and asked where he was. He survived the operation, but after the chaos of the ensuing battle Wiseman never saw him again.    

An eighteenth century depiction of the battle of Worcester 1651. Photograph by David Morrison. Reproduced by permission of the Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

During the battle, a royalist garrison held Fort-Royal just outside the city. The next case is of a soldier in the fort, who during the fighting was using his bonnet to carry a fresh supply of gunpowder to his fellows on the ramparts. He was just refilling his bandoliers (ammunition pouches to hold the powder), when a fellow soldier fired his musket too close to him. A spark from the musket ignited the powder and both men were horribly burned. Wiseman and his assistants dressed the wounds as best they could, covering the burns with some sort of oil and egg white mixture. William Clark, managed to cure the first soldier, and the latter was bandaged enough to allow him to escape the city.

In a case of a musket ball entering a soldier through one side of his chest, which passed out between two ribs on the other side of his body, they cleaned the wounds, and kept the hole between the ribs open to allow discharge of any matter. The wound was later cleaned, and the patient attended to after the battle by Wiseman’s assistant William Clarke, who later lived in Bridgenorth. The soldier was concealed in the city until he could make his escape.

Richard Wiseman's book on surgery. Photograph by David Morrison. Reproduced by permission of the Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

During the battle, a soldier came to where Surgeon Wiseman was working. The soldier was still clutching his broken sword and was covered in wounds, particularly around the head. Wiseman saw that the hairy scalp of one side of his head was hanging down his neck, and calling over his colleague William Clarke, they cleaned the wound with a sponge. They noticed many fissures, and some fractures on the head caused by various weapons. They freed the scalp of some bone fragments, and dressed the wound, applying liniment. At this point the Parliamentarians broke into Worcester. Wiseman decided it was time to leave in the middle of treating the soldier. However his young assistant and servant William Clarke remained and carried on treating the wounded even after the fighting was over. He later wrote to Wiseman and told him about the case. Three days after treating him, the soldier seemed in good spirits, but the head wounds were causing discomfort, and Clarke loosened two of the stitches to vent the wounds. He dressed penetrating wounds, and discarded damaged bone fragments. The soldier eventually recovered, traveled to the Indies and then served in the Tower of London.

A 1616 book on anatomy Wiseman might have seen. Photograph by David Morrison. Reproduced by permossion of the Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

Meanwhile, Captain Smith, leading a Company of Dragoons, was pursuing Wiseman and the defeated Royalist soldiers as they fled from the battle.  In the ensuing skirmish Smith was wounded across the right Temporal Muscle (on the side of the head) and was bleeding to death. He was brought to surgeon Wiseman’s quarters. Wiseman stitched his wound and, lacking enough medicines, dressed it with a little wheat-flower and the white of an egg, applying over it a compress which he described as being pressed out of vinegar, and secured with a bandage. Three days later Wiseman took off the bandages and found the wound to be healing. By this time, he had managed to get medical supplies from an Apothecary and sprinkled the lips of the wound with these. Two days afterwards he cut the stitches and applied “epuloticks” and after a couple more sets of fresh dressings the man recovered.

David Morrison

Monday, 18 November 2013

John Calvin's Preface to the Institution of the Christian religion.

How did a book intended for sixteenth century Spanish humanists and Spanish reformers end up in Worcester? Still in its original binding, it is still uncertain who purchased it, or donated it here. 

John Calvin's Insitution of the Christian Religion in Spanish. Photograph by David Morrison by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester (U.K.).

The Cathedral library has a copy of the second edition of John Calvin’s book entitled Institution of the Christian religion, comprising of four parts, each divided into chapters. It was published in 1597 by Ricardo del Campo after being translated into Spanish or the “Castilian tongue” by Cypriano de Valera.

Woodcut of John Calvin, from . Reproduced by the permission of the Dean and Chapter
of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)
Calvin prefaced his book with two introductions addressed to “All the faithful of the Spanish nation” who desire the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom”. He was in a buoyant mood because his first book had been warmly received in other European countries and he was very optimistic of its success in Spain also. In the second, shorter introduction he is full of thanks to Almighty God for looking favourably on his first book and he believes that he is duly bound to serve Him and all converts to his new doctrine to bring more and more people to Christ with his new improved volume into which he has poured his “meagre god given talents”. He stresses how hard he has worked in God’s service, to the extent that he became seriously ill and almost died from quartan fever one winter, but did not rest until he had got his book into its desired shape. Now, whatever happens to its author, it will stand as testament to the power of God and the rightness of the teaching based on the close study of the text of the Bible and the strict observance in everyday life of its laws. 

He sets out his work as a lawyer might, illustrating his arguments with detailed references from the Old Testaments and the gospels, writing with fervour and convinced that his Protestant ideas on the Reform of the Christian church are the only valid ones; that he is a warrior of Christ combatting the corrupt practices of the Catholic Church with his teaching and preaching.

Calvin saw the Roman Catholic Church as in the power of Satan, and took every opportunity to condemn its way of worshipping Christ. In his Preface he mentioned the Diet of Augsburg, one of the conferences organized by the Catholic Church to promote the Counter Reformation and heaped scorn on the “lies” they published about him. His duty was, with God’s grace, “to so prepare and instruct those who wish to study theology that they might easily learn Holy Scripture, have a clear understanding of what they might read and walk a straight path from which they never depart.” The end of the shorter preface stresses that the book deals so fully and clearly with all matters of religion that every reader who perseveres will be given a very useful tool with which to live a godly life and refute the statements of “the Enemny”. Calvin wanted no praise for his achievement but to be remembered before God by those who found spiritual benefit in the pages of the book.
Like other reformers, Calvin was a product of ideas stemming from the Renaissance. Scholars prized the Greek and Roman civilizations and in their intensive study of Green and Latin discovered new ways of looking at the language and meaning of the Bible in its original tongues, and the enigma of human existence. Such men were called “humanists”. Unfortunately the different ways they interpreted what they found set in motion religious divisions which remain to this day.

Erasmus from a Worcester Cathedral Library book. Photograph by David Morrison, by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

In Spain humanism began to take root in the very early sixteenth century, when Erasmus’ writings began to be read in Spain. Spanish universities began to study and discuss the new religious ideas. The Catholic Church, however, was quick to imprison even moderate thinkers like Luis de León whose statue stands facing the old university building of Salamanca today. By the time Erasmus died in 1536, the Inquisition had pounced upon any attempt at reform and religious humanism was sent underground, though in the plastic arts and in literature the study of Renaissance ideas brought about what is called in Spain “El Siglo de oro” (“The Golden Age”), which spanned two centuries and produced world class artists and authors, reflecting the influence and splendour of the Catholic Church.

Betty Eggby

Friday, 1 November 2013

A Medieval and an Elizabethan Maths Book

Love it or loathe it maths is a useful skill. This week I thought I’d seek out what the Cathedral library has in terms of historic maths books and found two gems. The first treasure is Anianus’ Computus cum commento (Computus with commentary), a late fifteenth-century arithmetic manual with instructions and demonstrative woodcuts. This short guide was printed in Paris by Guy Marchant in 1497, and the Worcester Cathedral library copy is the only one surviving in the UK.

Anianus, the author of the commentary, is a figure whom we know little about, but some believe he was a French Benedictine monk. He wrote his computus guide at the end of the fourteenth-century and numerous manuscript copies survive. It was so popular in the century that followed that the commentary was printed in Paris, Rouen, Lyon and Basel. The title page of Marchant’s 1497 edition opens with this splendid woodcut:
Photograph, Compotus cum commento. Reproduced by the permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

This is just one of six woodcuts which link books to Marchant’s workshop. It depicts two shoe makers working and includes a central shield containing two hands holding open a book. At the top you can see an abbreviated form of his motto “Sola fides suficit” ,“faith alone suffices”.

Computus, for those wondering, was the major form of mathematical learning in the middle Ages. Put simply, it is the mathematical working out of the dates of Lent and Easter for any given year. In Western Christianity, Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. Once this date has been calculated, the rest of the church’s moveable festivals and celebrations can be worked out in relation to this date. Historians of mathematics have stressed the overwhelming complexity of early computus manuals. Anianus’ compoutus manual was likely popular because it followed a much simpler format than others on the subject, such as those written by Bede and Arnold of Villanova. The commentary is written in prose, and explains how to use the hand as a mnemonic device on which to calculate. Here are some of the woodcuts from Marchant’s edition showing how to use the left hand:

Photograph, Compotus cum commento. Reproduced by the permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

Fast forward around a hundred and fifty years and we find the second of the Cathedral library’s interesting maths books: A geometrical treatise named pantometria. This Elizabethan geometry book, written by Thomas Digges c. 1570 presents an array of technologies and tools developed in the Elizabethan era for the study of mathematics and topographical work. Pictured below is one such tool, called a Theodelitus, which is described as a “circle divided into 360 grades”, the diameter of which was 2 feet, meaning that the sizeable instrument had to be held down by some type of clamp.
                               Reproduced by the permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

The tool is thought to have been invented by Digges’ father, Leonard. Leonard Digges’ died when his son was aged thirteen and left a partially completed manuscript copy of Pantometria to his son. Thomas Digges completed his father's work. As a child Thomas Digges became a ward of the renowned Elizabethan astronomer and mathematician, John Dee, who you can find out about by clicking here.
What’s most interesting about Pantometria is the consistent application of geometry to solving military problems and war-related scenarios. Though composed centuries apart, Pantometria is reminiscent of the military-style textbooks produced for young school children in Nazi Germany, which superimpose basic maths problems with militaristic images. If you look at the woodcut below you can see how one problem is put in the context of an observer trying to estimate how far two rather threatening looking, incoming ships are away.
Reproduced by the permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

The woodcuts on folio 30 and 32 take on an even more militaristic framework, as you can see two warring parties firing canons at one another.

Photograph reproduced by the permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)
We might read this textbook, therefore, as more than simply an instructive manual, it’s constant references to spying, even in the more innocent peeping Tom scenario, conjures to mind the network of spies at home and abroad employed by Queen Elizabeth I during her reign. Many of the geometry problems, particularly in the first part of the book, are aimed at either seeing things you are usually unable to see, or visually penetrating fortified areas. There is even this excellent woodcut of a man using the reflection of a pond to spy on  his wife situated several stories above.

Photograph reproduced by the permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

More broadly, the consistent references to sea faring and sea voyages mean the book is clearly a product of the age of exploration. This maths book then, might also be a useful source for military historians or Elizabethan enthusiasts as it clearly reflects national concerns in this period.