18 Illustrations Revealing The Horror Of Surgery In The 15th–19th Centuries…


The photos are compiled in Crucial Interventions: An Illustrated Treatise on the Principles & Practice of Nineteenth-Century Surgery, a book by medical historian Richard Barnett.

The nineteenth century saw a complete transformation of the practice and reputation of surgery. Crucial Interventions follows its increasingly optimistic evolution, drawing from the very best examples of rare surgical textbooks with a focus on the extraordinary visual materials of the mid-nineteenth century. Unnerving and graphic, yet beautifully rendered, these fascinating illustrations include step-by-step surgical techniques paired with medical instruments and painted depictions of operations in progress.

Pancoast, 1846. Surgery to correct strabismus, involving the division of the internal rectus of the right eye

Bourgery and Jacob, ‘Traité complet de l’anatomie de l’homme’ (1840). Incision and two procedures for caesarean section

An early European anatomical dissection, from Johannes de Ketham’s ‘Fasciculus Medicinae’ (ca. 1493). A learned physician reads from a treatise while a surgeon carries out the dissection

Pancoast, 1846. Surgery for cancer of the tongue

This scene from an Arzneibuch (a compendium of surgical techniques and medical recipes), compiled around 1675 for a Franciscan monastery in Germany or Austria, shows surgery for lacrimal fistula being performed on a nun

Thomas Johnson, ‘The works of that famous chirurgion Ambrose Parey translated out of Latine and compared with the French’ (1634). The frontispiece to Thomas Johnson’s English translation of Ambroise Paré’s works

Bourgery and Jacob, ‘Traité complet de l’anatomie de l’homme, vol. 3’ (1844). Vertical cross section of the human brain

Bourgery and Jacob, ‘Iconografia d’anatomia, vol. 1’ (1841). Resection of the lower jaw

Bernard and Huette, 1848. Musculature and blood supply of the wrist and hand

Pancoast, 1846. Sites for ligature of arteries in the lower arm and resection of the arm at the elbow joint

Pancoast, 1846. Compression of arteries in the arm and leg to reduce blood loss during surgery

Bernard and Huette, 1848. Anatomy of the armpit, and the ligature of the auxiliary armpit

Maclise, 1856. Dissection of a seated man, showing the aorta and the major arteries of the thorax and abdomen

Bernard and Huette, 1848. Dissection of the thorax, showing the relative position of the lungs, heart and primary blood vessels

Bourgery and Jacob, ‘Iconografia d’anatomia, vol. 1’ (1841). Surgical saws, knives, and shears for operations on bone

Bourgery and Jacob, ‘Iconografia d’anatomia, vol. 1’ (1841). Amputation of various toes, and amputation of the toes at the metatarsals