The 17th century guide to giving birth to fetch thousands at Dorset auction
A rare 17th century book on childbirth, expected to fetch up to £4,000 at auction in Dorset spends an entire chapter discussing whether it is possible to conceive “children of devils or spirits.”
Some parents whose babies refuse to sleep at night might have their own views.
The small leather-bound book was brought into the Dorchester offices of Duke’s Auctioneers by the owner on the off-chance that it could be worth something. They were pleasantly surprised when experts identified it as a highly sought-after early reference book.
The book is written by 17th century Surgeon James Rueff and is divided into separate sections dealing with the theories of conception, through to pregnancy, the process of childbirth and even termination of a pregnancy.
Buy One Dorset Cream Tea (1 large scone, clotted cream, jam and a pot of tea for 1) get one FREE. Why not try our delicious ginger & treacle scones with plum jam?
Terms: Offer available Thursdays and Fridays only. Please note that we are open 10am-4pm. Offer only available to each customer once throughout the period. Check our website for Christmas opening times
Contact: 01929 500509
Valid until: Friday, January 31 2014
There are even primitive diagrams of the reproductive systems and babies in the womb together with detailed recipes for potions and remedies that can be used to assist child bearing.
The book was published in 1637 at a time when little was known about medicine and the human body. Human dissection was forbidden by the Church in the Medieval period and despite Vesalius’s published drawings of secret dissections which he carried out in 1543, theories of human anatomy were wide and varied.
Valuer at Duke’s Auctioneers Amy Brenan said: “The diagrams in the book are very artistic rather than scientific – drawings of the female reproductive system are drawn organically almost as if they are blossoming plants rather than organs. They demonstrate only a basic understanding of human anatomy.
“Much of the advice and remedy given appears to be based upon superstition and belief rather than grounded in scientific fact. For example, the author recommends the pregnant lady to ‘be merry of a heart, let them not be wasted and pined with mourning and cares, let them give their endeavour to moderate joys and sports, for these things do both exhilarate and cheer up the infant, and stir up the faculties of the Infant’.”
It also refers to then controversial, but accurate theories on conception and fertilisation.
The book will be offered for sale at Duke’s Auctioneers, Dorchester, on September 26 and is expected to attract plenty of interest.