Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What To Expect When You're Done Expecting: Dr. Spock in 1577

By Stephen J. Gertz

Safety Helmet.

It's in Latin, so it's not quite what you want to have on the nightstand when your baby or child has a bad case of whatever and you can''t translate "Vocant IX-I-I" in time for the paramedics to arrive and resolve the crisis before your kid kicks the bucket.

But though not a popular guide, De arte medica infantium by Omnibonius Ferrari (1577) was a key go-to book on pediatrics, Dr. Spock's Baby & Child Care for sixteenth century doctors and Latin-literate parents who could afford it.

Breast Milk Pump.

Divided into three parts, in 195 pages it covers the management of wet nurses; the care and feeding of the newborn; and the diseases of children.

Typically bound together with De arte medica infantium aphorismorum, a list of 273 aphorisms by Ferrari on the care and diseases of children based on the writings of Hippocrates and Galen but with a number of additions from contemporary sources, the two works present the state of the medical arts for infant care.

Toilet Training.

Or particular interest for 21st century mothers are the four text engravings which illustrate a self-operated breast pump for harvesting milk, a device for training children to walk, a  potty-training  toilet, and a helmet made to protect the child's head from injury, each early designs for now commonplace items in the inventory of modern motherhood.

In an age of harsh conditions, the concept of the child as tender and vulnerable and in need of a nurturing environment was beginning to emerge. De arte medica infantium  was amongst the most important contemporary medical books of its kind and provides insight into views on  late sixteenth century child care and psychology that will be startling familiar to modern parents.

Rolling Crib For Training To Walk.

"The illustrations are of interest…as they show two commonly used child-training devices of the past – the running stool, ancestor of the present-day walker, and the chair stool,  which held infants in a sitting position. Both of these devices were denounced by Ferrarius’s contemporary Felix Wurtz, who described the undue strain they put on undeveloped infant muscles” (Norman).

"In 1577 Ognibene Ferrari of Verona, Italy, proposed that the home be 'child-proofed'; offered designs for developmentally appropriate walkers, potty chairs, and helmets; and argued that 'the greatest care must be taken that he does not see terrifying pictures, nor should the one who has charge of him shew himself to him with a stern look on his face, lest he cause him fright, and so through depression and overmuch grieving he be ill affected'" (Review of Nurturing Children: A History of Pediatrics in JAMA, Nov. 1, 2000).

Amongst the "terrifying pictures" that should probably be kept from tender eyes is any image of mama mia! Italian actress and mama Monica Bellucci in the lobby of the Excelsior hotel in Rome using Ferrari's breast milk pump while the paparazzi pretend to be ga-ga over her pair of peepers rather than endowments. Grown men can barely tolerate the view without convulsions, forget about little Gianni who might grow up to have visions of sugar plums fairies and marriage to La Cicciolina, a terrifying prospect indeed.

FERRARI, Omnibonius. De arte medica infantium, libri quatuor. Quorum duo priores de tuenda eorum sanitate, posteriores de curandis morbis agunt. [Bound with] De arte medica infantium aphorismorum, particulae tres. Brixiæ [Brescia], apud Franciscum, & Pet. Mariam fratres, de Marchettis, 1577.            

First editions, two works in one. Small quarto. [xii], 195, [1] pp.; 22 pp. With errata, four engraved text illustrations, large illustrated woodcut initials, ornamental head- and tailpieces. Marchetti's anchor and dolphin device on both title pages.

Both reprinted in 1598 and usually bound as one.

Adams F-288 (Aphorismorum), F-289 (De Arte Medica, 1598 ed). Normon 787 (De Arte Medica), 788 (Aphorismorum). Grulee 452 (De Arte Medica), 454 (Aphorismorum).

B. & L. Rootenberg Rare Books and Manuscripts is currently offering a lovely first edition copy of these two volumes bound together.

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