James Finlayson.

Account of the life and works of Maister Peter Lowe : the founder of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow online

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Account o(

Maister Peter Lowe,

The F'Hii c" . '• ' hT




/Ibaister pctct %o\qc,




Honorary Librarian to the Faculty of Physicians and Surf^eons, Glasgovr ; Physician

to tJie Glasgow Western In/innary ; Physician to the Royal Hospital /or Sick

Children in ClasgCM ; Late Honorary President of the Glasgow

University Medico-Chirurgical Society^ 6fc.


JJublisIuvs to the clnibcrsiti],





As Honorary Librarian to the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow,
I have naturally had my attention directed to Peter Lowe's works, and during
the last 13 years I have made various attempts to explore this obscure subject.
Wiien the students of the University did me the honour of electing me Hon-
orary President of the Glasgow University Medico- Chirurgical Society, I thought
an account of the Life and Works of our first notable Surgeon might sen'e as
a suitable Address to those studying medicine in Glasgow. I intended at that
time, while the details were fresh in my memory, to write out from my notes
the Address which I had given to them in November, 1886. A combination of
circumstances prevented this being done : with the delay which had unavoid-
ably occurred, the idea of expanding certain portions of the Address led to still
further delay. This repeated postponement added much to the labour of
working up such a subject by one constantly disturbed by arduous work of a
more practical nature ; but it has not been without its advantages, for even
during the printing of this Memoir a few additional details of some importance
have been acquired.

I have to acknowledge much assistance rendered to mc in this work. Dr.
W. H. Hill, the Clerk of our Faculty here, has supplied many references of
value, and has verified some of the quotations from old legal documents. Mr.
A. Duncan, the Secretary of the Faculty, has given me access to the Minute
Books, and has aided the inquiry in a great many ways. Sir James Manvick
gave me permission to have tracings reproduced of Peter Lowe's Autographs.
Dr. J. 13. Cowan obtained from the late Mr. James Stirling, of Cordale, some
documentary evidence, connected willi that family, of great importance. Dr. C


Creighlon, of J.ondon, was good enough to send me his notes bearing on Peter
I -one's translation from Hippocrates, and also to look up for me, in the British
Museum, some further i)oints on this subject. Prof. John Ferguson, of
Glasgow, and Dr. Wickham I>egg, of London, likewise furnished, from their
stores of bibliographical knowledge, some help in this inquiry. My friend Mr.
T. Windsor, of Manchester, forwarded, at my request, some notes which he
had accumulated on Peter Lowe and his works ; these I have printed in an
Appendix. My nephew, Mr. Archibald Fleming, made several searches for
me at the Register House in Edinburgh.

In addition, I am under very special obligations to one of my Clinical
Assistants, Dr. John Love, who during the last year has made a multitude of
inquiries and extracts for me ; during the printing of these sheets he has com-
pared the quotations and verified the references whenever the books quoted
could be obtained in Glasgow, except in a few cases where I did so myself:
it seemed important to aim at as much accuracy as possible in this respect.

The Council of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons gave me permission
to have Peter Lowe's Portrait reproduced by the Photogravure process ; and
I have to acknowledge the kindness of the friend who supplied two litho-
graphic drawings.

J. F.
2 WoonsiDi; Place,
Glascow, August, 1889.



Introduction: Peter Lowe's Tomb, j

" Chirurgerie" (1597) and "Spanish Sicknes" (1596), 3

Probable Date of Birth — Residence Abroad — Arrival in London, - - - ^6

Arrival in Glasgow, - - 18

Foundation of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. • - - 20

Incidents in Life in Glasgow, -... - .-. 25

Wife — Family — Descendants, - - . 26

Date of Death, 29

Bibliography, - - - 31

Unpublished or Lost Works, - 40

Name — Titles — Portrait, ... 4,9

Astruc's Strictures — Accusation of Writing for the People in English, - - 58

Appendix No. I.— Charter by King James VI. to the Faculty of Physicians

and Surgeons of Glasgow, 66

Appendix No. II. — Letter from Rev. John Hamilton Gray to Dr. J. G.

Fleming, Glasgow, 68

Appendix No. III.— Letter from Dr. A. Dureau, Paris, to Dr. James Finlay-

son, Glasgow, ...-.-.. - . 70

Appendix No. IV. — Notes on Peter Lowe l)y Mr. T. Windsor, Manchester,

with comments by Dr. J. Finlayson, - - "i



Photogravure, by T. & R. Annan & Sons, of a Portrait of Peter Lowe, in the

possession of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow, Frontispiece.

Lithographic Drawing of Peter Lowe's Tomb, - 2

Photo-lithograph of the Title-page of the Second Edition of the " Chyrvrgerie," 4

Lithographic Drawing of Peter Lowe's Gauntlet Gloves, with Silver and Gilt

Embroidery, 28

Photo-lithograph of the Title-page of the " Spanish Sicknes," from the copy
in the Library of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow (the
line injured by the binder is DOM. 1596), 30

Photo-lithograph of the Title-page of the First Edition of the " Chirurgeric,"
from the Copy in the Library of the Royal Medical nnd Chirurgical
Society of London, 32

Photo-lithograph of the Title-page of the First Edition of the " Presages," - 38

Two Facsimile Specimens of Peter Lowe's Autograph, 49> 50



On entering the gate of the churchyard which surrounds the Glasgow
Cathedral, a visitor to that fine building may notice that the third tomb-
stone on the right is in better preservation than its neighbours, and that its
curious inscription can be easily made out. The property of this tomb was
acquired by the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow in 183.1, from
the representatives of Peter Lowe's descendants. At that time iron railings '
of some height existed in front of the stone, but these are now removed, and
the present appearance of Peter Lowe's tomb is very well represented in the
drawing annexed, which was prepared for this memoir. The inscription on
the upright stone is repeated, in part, on a flat stone on the ground, with
slight variations in the spelling of some of the words ; although it has been
frequently reproduced, especially in various works on the history of Glasgow,
it is necessary to give it here, and it is so quaint and interesting that it can
well bear repetition.

^ These are shown in a photograph in the possession of the Faculty in Glasgow, and also
in Fairhairn's drawings : A'elics of Ancient Archittrture and otht-r Pictiircsqiif Scenes in
Glasgcau. Publis/ied and Lithographed in Colours by Miller ^ Buchanan, from li'atef
Colour Dra'vings by Thomas Fairbairn \Glasgor,i.'\ 1S49. Rc-issucd by David Hrycc & Son,
Glasgow, 1885. The latter volume contains " Photo-Engravings" of the drawings. In
the 1849 issue we have, in the drawing of the tomb, 1512 instead of 1612 : and in both issues
we have 13. L. instead of P. L.

The recent looking title, "Doctor Peter Low, The Founder of the Faculty of Physicians
and Surgeons," w.ns no doubt added when the Faculty acquired the |)ropcrly.

l6l 2

P . L




Stay • Passenger • And • Viow • This • Stone
For • Under • It • Lyis • Such ■ A ■ One
Who - Cuired • Many ■ Whill • He • Lieved
SoE • Gracious • He ■ Noe • Man • Grieved
Yea • When ■ His ■ Phisicks ■ Force • Oft ■ Failed
His ■ Plesant ■ Purpose Then • Prevailed
For Of His • God • He • Got • The • Grace
To • Live • In • Mirth ■ and • Die • In • Peace
Heavin ■ Hes His ■ Soul • His • Corps this ■ stone
fciGH • Passinger • And • Soe • Be ■ Gone

Ah Me I Gravell Am And Dust

And To The Grave Deshend I Most

O Painted Peice Of Liveing Clay

Man Be Not Proud Of Thy Short Day

The inscription on the flat stone is as follows : the slight differences in the
spelling here probably account for some of the variations in the reproductions of
the inscription.

Who • CvRED • Many • Whill He • Lieved
So • Graciovs • He • No • Man • Grieved
Zea • When ■ As • Phisicks • Force ■ Oft ■ Favled
His • Pleasant • Pvrpose ■ Then • Prevayled
For • Of • His • God • He • Gott ■ The • Grace
To • Live • In • Mirth • And ■ Dye ■ In • Peace
Heaven • Hes • His ■ Sovl • His • Corps ■ this • ston
Sygh • Passinger ■ And • So ■ Be • Gonc

, -,^^iA • -til'' i "^ j/Sw^ ,



Peter Lowe's reputation, beyond the neighbourhood of Glasgow, rests
chiefly on his work on " Chirurgerie " (1597). This seems to have been the
first original systematic treatise on the " Whole Covrse of Chirurgerie,"
published in the English Language, or indeed in any language in this
country.^ Various partial treatises, as on Syphilis and Gunshot wounds, had
indeed been published in English, and Peter Lowe himself had issued during
die previous year, a little book on the "Spanish Sicknes" ; but his new work
aimed at going over the whole of Surgery, which was then rising into great
importance as a branch of the healing art so far distinct from medicine. He
likewise presented to our countrymen the first English translation of any of
the Hippocratic writings, — the "Prognostics," or, as he calls them, "The
Presages of Diuine Hippocrates" ; this was bound up with all the editions of
his " Chirurgerie." In thus breaking through traditional usage and writing in
the language of his countrymen who were to profit by his work, he was, as we
should now say, clearly in the right path ; but this laying open of knowledge
to " Young Chirurgions " and common people seems to have exposed him to
much vituperation at the time, and for more than a century after he was dead,
as will be shown, hereafter, in speaking of Astruc's criticisms.

The form which the Treatise on " Chirurgerie " takes is that of a dialogue
as if at an examination, or during the preparation for an examination, at the
College of Surgeons in Paris. In the first edition (1597), the tw6 " Inter-
loquutors" arc Cointret, the Dean of the Parisian College, and Peter Lowe
himself. In the second edition (161 2), they are changed to Peter Lowe and
" lohn Lowe, his Sonne," who is represented as being prepared for the Paris
examination ; it is, howewer, almost certain that his son was then much too
young for any such work, and it is probable that he never became a surgeon.
A curious slip occurs in the very first chapter of this dialogue, where " lohn "
refers to the "Spanish Sicknes" as if it had been written by himself instead
of by his father. The difticulties, indeed, of keeping up the literary form of

^A translation of a work on Surgery appeared earlier : the title (in part only) is copied
from the American "Index Catalogue." WKva-icnwxG.—" 77u nobU expfr^■cme of the
" vcrtHom handy warkc of Siirgeri practysyd and compyUd by the moost experte mayster Jheromc
'^ of Bruytuioyke .... Fol. Loudon, 1525."

the dialogue were evidently felt to be so great, that it is often, for whole
chapters, or even whole books, completely suppressed.
The first question is as follows ' :■ —

Fc. Yee might haue perceiiicd by my former discourse touching the originall of
Chyrurgery [Chapter i] and the excellency thereof, the great desire I haue to profit
you therein, and to giue good example to all those who would professe the same.
In consideration whereof, I am determined to conferre with you in that matter,
seeing leisure doth permit me, as also because I am mindful! to cause you to remaine
in Par/s for your further instruction, and passing of the degrees there accustomed
in the sayd Arte, for the which I will in these three Books following, as also in euery
generall chapter ensuing, set downe so briefly as I can, the forme and method that the
Doctors of Chyrurgerie in Fan's vseth, in their first examination called the examina-
tion tentatiue, where the Prouoste of the sayd Colledge, and sixe other Maisters
that hee will choose, will examine you exactly vppon the whole groundes of Chyrur-
gerie, according to the which form I will begin & demand of you in few words, the
whole principall points of Chyrurgerie : but according to Cicero, seeing all doctrine
whatsoeuer which is grounded uppon reason, should beginne at the definition, to the
end we may the better vnderstand that whereof we entreat, first then will I aske of
you what is Chyrurgerie ? [Lib. i. Cap. 2, p. 4.]

In going on to discuss the peculiarities of the various periods of human life,
we come across the following quaint commentary on the last chapter of the
Book of Ecclesiastes.-

Of Age. — .... This last age is set downe in Eccle. 12. lie thou wise, Salomon.
With such a braue Allegorye, that nothing in the world can bee found so excellent,
for the which I shall set it downe at large in this place.

Haue mind (saith he) of thy Creator in the daies of thy youth, or in the dales of
aduersity : Come, while the Sunne is not darkened : nor the Moone : nor the
starres : nor the cloudes returne after the raine : When the keepers of the house
shall tremble, and the strong men shall bowe ihemselues. And the grinders shall
cease, because they be few in number : and they shall waxe darke which looke out

^ These quotations from the " Cliiiurgerie " are from the second edition.

- His interpretation is essentially similar to the traditional one current from early times :
"The Midrash understands the watchers of the house, of the knees of the aged man : the
" men of strength, of his ribs or arms : the women at the mill of the digestive organs : those
"who have become few of the teeth : the women looking out at the window, of the eyes."
Dclitzsch : Commaitary on the So/i^ of Songs and Ecclesiastcs. (Translattd) Edinburgh,
1885, p. 406. See also a curious and most elaborate treatise by John Smith, M.D., Kin^
Solomons Fortraiturc of old agi, wherein is contained a sacicd anatomy both of sonl and bcdw
London, 1666.



' """ Of


Wherein is exactly let dovvne the

Definition, Caufes, Accidents, Frognolti-
cations, and Cures of all forts o^ Difeafesjbothin

genciall-and particular, which at rinytiir.e hereto,
forchauebeeiiprac^izrdbyany Chinirgion : Accor-
ding to ^le opinion of ;ill the ancicnr profeflois
of :h.n Science.

which ii not onelyprGjicabiefor Chyt'urgions ; hut

4ffo far all forts of people J both fsr preHtntm^ of

fu.l(ntjfi ; and r tiov trie ff h(a! tb .

Compiled by Pet r r. L o w-. ScortifhmanjDoclorinuic

facultic oi Chinirgeric at Pafts : and ordinary Cl-.vrur^ion

to the French King and Wavjrrf.

Whervy.to ts adJgdthe rule ofm4l^it7£ Rtmtatti fhich Cbirur.

^f^ns doe ctmmonly zje : wtrhtheTrefngts

of 'D'tuine Hyppocrarcs.

The fccoiid Edition ;cnriec'lcH.and much augmented,

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Online LibraryJames FinlaysonAccount of the life and works of Maister Peter Lowe : the founder of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow → online text (page 1 of 10)