Instruments used in great surgery

For ancient and mediaeval man the body was sacred, and its cutting open entered the realms of religious practice, rather than scientific observation. From the Renaissance, the number of dissections increased. Vesalius was the first physician to publish an anatomical treatise in 1543, illustrated with magnificent plates giving a detailed description of the human body. This improved knowledge of the body contributed to the spectacular development of surgery from the 16th century. Alongside the minor surgery practised by the barber-surgeons, great surgery, regarded thus far as a secondary art by doctors as it was practised with the hands (from the Greek "cheiros", meaning "hand"), becomes more and more valued. Lessons in theory appeared in Paris at the end of the 17th century, and surgical manuals were published, accompanied with plates representing the ever-increasing number and variety of instruments. Until the first half of the 19th century, however, surgery, because of the absence of anaesthesia and asepsis, remained an emergency practice, limited to three principal procedures: amputation, trephination and lithotomy. The instruments displayed date from the 16th to the 19th centuries and come from two Rouen museums whose collections complement each other. the Flaubert Museum and the History of Medicine and the Le Secq des Tournelles Museum.