Early Work on Obstetrics

Jacques Auguste BLONDELDissertation physique sur la force de l'imagination des femmes enceintes sur le fétus. Traduit de l'anglois par Albert Brun.

Leiden, chez Gilbert Langerak & Theodore Lucht, 1737.

8vo, contemporary vellum boards, red morocco lettering piece on spine, sprinkled edges. 8 unnumbered leaves (including title printed in red and black), 181 pp. (misnumbered 175), 10 unnumbered leaves of table. Complete.

First French Edition.

Blondel’s important text on prenatal influences.

Since antiquity philosophers and scientists tried to explain the cause of congenital malformations. In early modern medicine maternal imagination was largely accepted as their true cause. This concept was rejected by the London physician Jacques [James] Auguste Blondel (1666-1734).

The belief that maternal impressions could detrimentally affect an unborn child was a problem that received considerable attention in the early eighteenth century. Already a long held theory, such notorious cases as that of Sarah Toft, “the pretended Rabbit-breeder of Godalming in Surrey” who purportedly gave birth to seventeen rabbits after having come into contact with a rabbit whilst weeding in a field during the early part of her pregnancy, merely perpetuated the fallacy. Although later discovered to be a fraud, the case nevertheless did nothing to shake the belief in the influence of maternal impressions. David Turner (1667-1741), in the first edition of his book on skin diseases, had included a chapter “Of Spots and Marks imprest upon the Skin and the Foetus, by the Force of the Mother’s Fancy”. In 1727, Jacques Blondel anonymously published the first of his two treatises refuting such beliefs, “The Strength of the Imagination in Pregnant Women Examined”, criticising in particular Turner’s theories. This began a heated exchange between the two. Turner responding in a pamphlet defending his views, “A Defence of the Twelfth Chapter of the First Part of a Treatise De Morbis Cutaneis”. Blondel delivered the coup de grâce with his second pamphlet, “The Power of the Mother’s Imagination over the Foetus Examined” (1729). His arguments were thorough and not without humour, and he demolished Turner’s arguments one by one, his ideas being ultimately accepted, and the pamphlet translated into several languages. He laid down a principle that was important and his method of reaching his conclusion was imaginative and structurally sound. Furthermore, he devotes several chapters to the physiology of development, in which he recognizes that there is an antenatal pathology, and that heredity is a complicated matter.

Contemporary engraved bookplate of Domenico Terres, Negoziante de Libri, Napoli, 1780. Contemporary signature in black ink on the title-page, repeated on page 104.

Faint occasional browning, a very good crisp copy.

Ref. Blake, p. 51 / Brunet, 6935 / Wellcome, II, p. 182 / Not in Osler or Waller

Price: 1.250,00 euros

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