Child-Birth or, the Happy Deliverie of Women.

GUILLEMEAU Jacques (1612.)

£24000.00  [First Edition]

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Wherein is set downe the Government of Women. In the time of their breeding Childe: of their Travaile, both Naturall and contrary to Nature: and of their lying in. Together with the diseases, which happen to Women in those times, and the meanes to helpe them. To which is added, a Treatise of the diseases of Infants, and young Children: with the Cure of them. Written in French by James Guillimeau the French Kings Chirurgion. 


First Edition in English. Small 4to (170 x 132mm). [16], 247; [15], 118pp., 17 woodcut illustrations in the text, mostly of medical instruments and the position of the foetus in the womb. A few small spots and some minor staining in a couple of places, closely shaved at the upper edge (occasionally just touching the headlines), previous owner's initials (in blue biro pen) in the blank lower margin of H4v [see below]. Contemporary limp vellum, title (twice) in early manuscript to the spine (re-cased, vellum stained in places, ties missing, endpapers neatly renewed).


London: by A. Hatfield, 1612.

STC 12496 recording BL, Glasgow UL (ex William Hunter collection), Newcastle University (electronic copy), Bodley, Royal College of Obstetricians & GynaecologistsRoyal College of Physicians & Surgeons of Glasgow, Wellcome Library (electronic copy); Huntington (early manuscript notes of the Holles family), Indiana UL, New York Academy of Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, University of Kansas (microfilm), Yale (electronic copy). OCLC adds the John Rylands Library; Universities of British Columbia, Chicago, and Duke.


The second part, The Nursing of Children (London: by A. Hatfield, 1612), has a separate title-page. A second edition was published in 1635. 


A very fine copy in contemporary vellum of one of the earliest English midwifery manuals. 


The first English translation of Jacques Guillemeau's (1550-1613) De l'heureux accouchement des femmes and De la nourriture et governement des enfans (both Paris 1609). The anonymous translator, in his preface to the reader, explains why he has decided to translate a work which is already "common to be had and read in that vulgar tongue [French]":


"... I must say that it is not writ so much for the learned (who not withstanding, if they have not the french, may make use of this) as for the Chirurgions, & Midwives, who are called to this kinde of employment. As for women (whom I am most afraid to offend) they must be content to have their infirmities detected, if they will have helpe for them, which I wish might not come to any eare or eye, but to those which they themselves would have acquainted therewith, and as well for their sakes, as mine owne satisfaction: I have endeavoured to be as private and retired, in expressing al the passages in this kind as possibly I could. ..."


The book begins by discussing the signs of pregnancy and whether the foetus might be male or female. Advice is then given on what the woman should eat during pregnancy and how a woman, "must governe her selfe the nine moneths she goeth with child." There is also a long section on miscarriage. 


The author discusses how a woman can tell if she is about to go into labour and what care must be taken of her when this happens. This is followed by a long section on the difficulties which might occur during labour and what can be done to help the woman. Much of this help is centred around the presence of a surgeon at the birth, a technique which Guillemeau pioneered. The surgeon, for example, might be called upon to use forceps for a foetus that was stuck or in an unusual position. There are numerous woodcut illustrations of medical birthing instruments and a series of woodcuts showing unusual foetal positions in the womb and the delivery of twins.


The second section covers the nursing of small children. This section is addressed to all women who are "exhorted to nurse their Children themselves". The section begins with the shockingly straightforward assertion that:


"Aulus Gellius (in my opinion) did not amisse in putting no difference betweene a woman that refuses to nurse her owne childe; and one that kills her child, as soon as she hath conceived. ... For why not a woman with as good reasons deny to nourish her child with her bloud, in her wombe, as to deny it her milk being borne?"


Despite this insistence on the importance of breastfeeding by the mother, the book begins with a chapter on choosing an appropriate nurse ("She must have a pleasing countenance, a bright and cleare eie, a well formed nose, neither crooked, nor of a bad smell, a ruddie mouth, and verie white teeth." p.3). Guillemeau continues by covering all aspects of the care of a child from the placement of the cradle, the correct holding position of the baby, cleaning and washing, teething, the weaning process and childhood diseases. 


There are sections on birth deformities such as cleft palette and extra fingers. The author draws on personal experience describing how:


"I have seen three little children newly borne all theses three children had the roofe of their mouth cleft and divided, even to the bottome of the nose: by meanes whereof they could not sucke. ... Neverthelesse, I have seen little children that have been nourish'd by a sucking bottle." (p.36).


On the subject of children wetting the bed ("Little children doe commonly pisse a bed") the advice is somewhat draconian:


"You must also threaten them, that you will whip them, and likewise make them ashamed, of doing it. But yet for all this, you must not correct them too much: for I have knowne some children (fearing to bee beaten, if they pissed a bed) that have tyed their yard themselves, whereof hath followed a Gangrene: which happened to Mons. Paraeus, when he was a child, as he himselfe hath told me" (p.80, referring to the great French surgeon Ambroise Paré, c. 1510-90).).


The book ends with a section on circumcision with woodcut illustrations of the instruments involved.


This translation is only the second midwifery manual published in England after Thomas Raynalde's The byrth of mankynde (first published in London in 1540 and much reprinted).


The last copy of the first edition to appear at auction before the present was almost forty years ago: Sotheby's 2nd November 1981 - "some leaves stained ... 1st seven leaves mended...portion of spine missing", £420). 


Provenance: 1: John Quayle, Esqr., mid-18th-century armorial bookplate on the front pastedown, probably the Manx lawyer and Clerk of the Rolls of the Isle of Man (1693-1755) or his son (also John) born in 1725 and like his father a lawyer. 2: Martin Woolf Orskey (1952-2018), bookseller, from his private collection; Orskey's initials in blue biro in the blank margin of one text leaf and on the rear pastedown. Orskey's library was sold by Dominic Winter Auctioneers in June 2019.


Stock Code: 233068

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