J.-N. (Jean-Nicolas) Gannal.

History of embalming, and of preparations in anatomy, pathology, and natural history ; including an account of a new process for embalming online

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Online LibraryJ.-N. (Jean-Nicolas) GannalHistory of embalming, and of preparations in anatomy, pathology, and natural history ; including an account of a new process for embalming → online text (page 1 of 18)
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PARIS, 1838.




No. 106 Chestnut Street.



7 Cartei^'s alley.



It will be reasonably anticipated from the title of the
present volume, that it embraces subjects of equal interest
to the general and professional reader, as well as indispen-
sable material for the researches of the practical anatomist
and student of natural history.

The latter class will find in it all the requisite details for
a successful prosecution of its arduous, intricate, but favorite
pursuits ; whilst those of its patrons of the former class, can-
not fail to be interested in the various and important facts
and discussions embraced in a general history of embalming
from the earliest ages to the present period, so hiseparably
connected with the moral and physical history of our own

An additional subject of interest to all classes will be
acknowledged in the facts and observations elicited by the
arduous and industrious researches of the author, whilst in-
vestigating the new process of embalming, which has led
to such happy results to the students of anatomy and na-
tural history. The great importance, in all respects, of M.
Gannal's discovery, has been fully and adequately acknow-
ledged by the different commissions appointed by the Insti-
tute of France, and the Royal Academy of Medicine, who
have awarded to its author both honour and profit, as a
real benefactor to science, to the progress of which he has
so substantially added. The current of the text, together
with the notes and illustrations of the translator, embraces
all the discoveries of the age, of this nature, of value to the
practical anatomist and naturalist, consisting both of ori-
ginal observations, and of highly important information con-
tained in the stanclartl works of D(! Bils, Rnysch, Swanmier-


dam, Claiidems, De Rasiere, Dumeril, Hunter, Brescliet,
Pole, Margolin, Bell, Cloquet, Swan, Parsons, Horner, &c.

Concerning the nature, extent, and merits of the new dis-
covery of M. Gannal, the translator, has spoken in the ap-
pendix, from a personal acquaintance with the author and a
minute examination of the collection of embalmed objects
contained in his cabinet at Paris.

Philadelphia, September, 1840.


PllEFACE, p, 5.

IxTHODucTiox, p. 9 Embalming among the Egyptians — Cause and ori-
gin of this custom — Opinion of authors : Cassien, Herodotus, Diodorus

Siccuius, Maillet, Bory de Saint Vincent, Volney, Pariset, etc First idea

of embalming offered to the Egyptians by the mummy of the sands — Opi-
nion of Count de Caylus de Rouelle — Plan of this work — IN'atural mum-
mies — Mummies of the Guanches — Of the Eg)-ptians — Of the Jews Of

the Greeks and Romans — Of modern nations — Mummies the object of su-
perstitious dread — History of the Pole, Razevil — Mummy employed as a
remedy in disease — Its marvellous properties — Officinal mummy of Crol-

lius — In what embalming consisted among the Egyptians and Guanches

What it has been among the moderns — What my discoveries have made
of it — Motives which have induced me to publish this work.


Of embalming ix genekal, p. 21 Tendency of bodies to decomposi-
tion — Variable, according to countries, species, and individuals — Fact re-
ported by Ammien Marcellin — Consequences deducible from it, for the na-
tives of hot countries — for temperate and cold countries — Facts observed
by Maillet — Astonishing analogy observed in the caverns of Saint Michel,
at Bordeaux — Various processes of embalming — With gum — With ho-
ney — W^ith wax — The embalming of Alexander — Of Agesilas — Brine
unknown — Fact of TulUola, reported by Coelius Rodiginus — Another by
Valateron — Embalming with aromatic and astringent substances — With
resinous and bituminous substances — Empyricism of the moderns Pro-
cess of Ruysch, of Swammerdam — Note of Strader — Appreciation of these
methods — Useful deductions to be drawn from them — Penicher thinks it
impossible to embahn without emptying the large cavities — Fact in sup-
port of his opinion — My experiments to this effect on infants.


Natural Mummies, p. 35. — Power of nature — Importance of seeking her
ways in the study of her phenomena ; to follow her lessons — Division of
natural mummies — Mummies due to the particular qualities of the soil —
Note communicated by Drs. Boucherie, Bermont, and Gaubert, concerning
the mummies of Saint Michel, at Bordeaux ; thermometrical and hygro-
metrical observations ; chemical analysis ; results — Similar facts observed
at Palermo— At Toulouse — History of M. de la Visee — Mummies due to
the general qualities of the air and soil — Mummy of the avalanches — Time
of its duration — Mummification by a cold and drj' wind — Morgue of the
Great Saint Bernard — Note communicated by Dr. Lenoir — Mummy of the
Sands — Testimony of Herodotus — Description of father Kirchcr — In
Egypt — In Mexico — These facts establish a simple connexion between the
productions of nature and those of human industrv.




EjiBAiMivr. OF THE GuANCHEs, p. 48. — Rescmblance between the embalm-
ings of the Guanches, and those of the Egyptians — Consequences deduci-
ble from this resemblance — Description of the processes drawn from the
Essay of M. Bory de Saint "Vincent — Duration of embalming — State in
which are found these mummies at the present day — Probable duration of
their preservation — Catacombs at Fer, the Canaries, &c. — Construction of
mausoleums — Fact observed by M. Jouannet of two Guanch mummies.


Embalming among the ancient Egyptians, p. 54. — What comprises the
labour of embalming — Disposition — Thermometrical and hygrometrical
state of the caverns in which the bodies were deposited ; what advantages
for preservation resulted from these — Recital of Herodotus — Of Diodorus
Sicculus — Orpheus transposes these usages into Grecian mythology — Judg-
ment of the dead — The place where they are deposited — Models of em-
balmings presented to relatives — Three kinds of embalmings ; description
of each by Herodotus — Horror existing for those charged with making the
incisions — Invocation to the sun, previous to casting away the intestines —
Precautions taken for the preservation of the bodies of young females, or
those of high rank — Commentaries on the narratives of the ancients — Suc-
cession of means discussed — Opinion of Rouelle concerning natrum — Ex-
amination of the linen bandages in which the mummies are enveloped —
Analysis of the embalming material by Rouelle ; explanation of several
passages — Exhibition of models — Price — New details furnished by Diodo-
rus — Quantity of bandages found around a single mummy — Embalming of
bodies without sepulture — drowned persons for example — Mummy of a
prince of Memphis — Examination of this mummy by Rouelle, and the
Count de Caylus — Extracts from the work of M. Rouyer, (great work upon
Egypt ;) the details which he furnishes complete our knowledge of Egyp-
tian embalming ; how many kinds of mummies he acknowledges — Mum-
mies having an incision on the left side — Mummies without any incision —
Exploration and description of the plain of Saggarah, by De Maillet — Visit
to the subterranean chambers — Mummy, near which was found a symboli-
cal statue — Description of an antique found in a tomb— Mummies pre-
served upon beds of carbon — Conclusion drawn from facts contained in this



p. 89. — Honours of embalming, conferred by other nations on distinguished
men only — Doubts on the efficacy of this operation — Example of Alexan-
der, and of Ptolemy — Embalming among the Jews — Embalming of Jesus
Christ — Employment of wax among the Persians — Methods of De Bils, of
Ruysch, of Swammerdam, of Clauderus — Description of the cabinet of
Sieur Desenclosses — Silence regarding the processes of preservation em-


ployed by these authors — Composition of the balsam given by Penicher —
Salt of Clauderus — Brine of Charles de Maetz — Preservation of the body
of Saint Thomas — Formulae : balsamic wines, compound brandy, vinegar,
cere-cloth — Mixtures for soaking the linens : liniment, balsamic powders —
Various methods of embalming, to the number of four — Embalming of the
heart — Preservation of the heart of an Abbe — Embalming of Madame the
Dauphine — Reflections.


Art of embalmixg in ouu day, phevious to mt discovekies, p. 118. —
Opinion of M. Pelletan upon the imperfect state of this art — Dispute among
the physicians, surgeons, and apothecaries, upon the question of preced-
ence — Embalming the senators of the empire — Improvements proposed by
M. Pelletan — Application of the discoveries of Chaussier upon the preser-
vative properties of the deuto-chloride of mercury to the art of embalming —
Embalming, as practised by Beclard — Preservation of the body of Colonel
Morland, by M. Larrey — Remarks — Preservation of the body of a young
girl of ten years, by M. Boudet — Reflections on these facts — Embalming
of Louis XVIIL, King of France — Fifteenth observation — Criticism — Em-
pyricism in this art — Exact appreciation of the preservative properties of
the deuto-chloride of mercury — Superiority of the means which I propose.


Means for the preparation and preservation of parts of normal
anatomt, of pathologic ax anatomt, and of natural history, an-
TERIOR TO THE Gannal PROCESS, p. 141. — Importance of such prepara-
tions to the physician and naturalist — Plan of a museum — Engravings :
pieces in wax, artificial pieces in carton, in white wood — The methods of
preparing recent organs and tissues — Process of Swan, of Chaussier — 1.
Generalities concerning the operations which precede preservation — Choice
of subjects — Dissection — Maceration and corrosion — Injections ; evacuants ;
repletives; conservatives; washings; ligature of vessels — Separation and
distention of parts — 2. Methods of preservation of naturalists — Preserva-
tion by desiccation — Methods divided into four series ; rectified spirits of
wine ; deuto-chloride of mercury, and other metallic substances — Earthy
salts — Process of tanning — Desiccation — Preservation in liquids, acids, al-
kalies, salts, alum, volatile oils, alcoholic liquors — Means of preservation
practised by naturalists : soap of Becoeur, soapy pomatum — tanning li-
quor — antiseptic powder — gummy paste — preservative powder — German
powder — powder of Naumann, and of Hoffman — Preser\'atives in liquors :
bath, naturalist preparers in Paris, tanning liquor, bath of the Abbe Ma-
nesse — Liquors as washes ; essence of serpolet, of turpentine — Liquor of
Sir S. Smith — Bitter spirituous liquors — Varnish — Liquors employed as
injections — Liquors in which objects are preserved which do not admit of
drying — Spirit of wine — Liquor of Nicholas — Of George Graves — Of the
Abbe Manesse — Critical reflections — Appreciation of each of the proposed
means — (1.) For desiccation — New methods which I propose for the pre-


paration of dry parts — Example of an injection by my method — ^The sub-
ject submitted to the examination of a scientific commission — Application
of my process to the preservation of mammiferous animals — Of birds —
State of the tissues — (2.) For preservation in liquids — Nitric Acid — Alco-
hol — Weakened alcohol — Alum : chemical demonstration of its insufficien-
cy for preservation — (3.) Means of preservation applied to each tissue —
Fibrous tissue — Articulations — Aponeuroses, tendons and ligaments —
Process of M. J. Cloquet — Osseous tissue — Maceration — Ebullition —
Bleaching — Cutaneous tissue — Cellular tissue — Synovial and serous tis-
sues — Brain — Spinal marrow — Nerves — Blood-vessels — Muscular tis-
sue — Heart — Lungs — Eye — Fcetus — Envelopes.


Gannal's process for the presehvatiojt or normal anatomy, pa-
thological ANATOMY, AND NATURAL HISTORY, p, 197. — Differ-
ence between the processes of preservation offered to anatomists, and
those practised for embalming : 1. Preservation of bodies for dissection —
Table of my experiments in 1828 — In 1831 — Kindness of M. Professor
Orfila — What formerly existed upon this matter — My point of departure
proceeding from the practice of artists — Action of Acids — Salts — Alumi-
nous salts — These possess in the highest degree the preservative property —
Selection to be made among these salts — My first experiments — Satisfy-
ing results — Proved by commissions appointed by the Academy of Sci-
ences, and the Academy of Medicine — Series of researches — JVIisreckon-
ing — New experiments — Superiority of the acetate of alum — Facts —
Chloride of alumine, its defects — Arsenic, and bad results — First report
of the Academy of Sciences — First report of the Academy of Medicine —
Definitive report of the Academy of Medicine — Reflections — Some good
results obtained at first from a mixture of alum, nitrate of potash, and
chloride of sodium — Not sustained above the 10° of centigrade — Bath —
Light furnished by it— Data for new researches — Acetate of alumine ex-
cellent — Reason for renouncing its use for amphitheatres — Simple sul-
phate, its analysis — Demonstration of its superiority over acid sulphate —
Various liquors of which it is the base — Black colour of the skin — Its
cause — Report of the commission of the Institute — Experiments of MM.
Serres, Dubreuil, Bourgery, Azoux, Velpeau, Amussat — My process ap-
plied to the dissecting rooms of Clamart: 2. Anatomical preparations —
Those of pathology, and Natural history — Facts, proving a perfect preser-
vation during many years — Composition of various preservative liquids —
Usage — Example of the preservation of dry pieces by the simple sul-
phate — All my experiments first attempted on the foetus — Circumstances

the most unfavourable : 3 Embalming — There remains for me a series of

experiments to perform, to enable me to practise embalming — Data to
which I must confine myself — Have I attained my end ] — Answer to this
question by facts — Exhumation — First observation — Second observation.

Appendix, p. 253.

To Messrs. Members of the Academy of Sciences.

Gentlemen, — From the commencement of my re-
searches upon the preservation of animal matters, you have
encouraged me by extending your support to efforts which
my own resources would not perhaps have enabled me to
continue ; in this path strewn with so many difficulties, and
disgusts, I have endeavoured to show myself worthy of
your high protection.

At a later period, when I was able to offer to physicians
and naturalists methods of preservation superior to those
previously known, you conferred upon me the prize founded
by Monthyon. I have pursued my researches with the
view of adapting my process to the art of embalming ; the
happy results which I have obtained have inspired me with
the idea of comparing my mummies with those obtained by
processes different from my own.

Finally, I have extended this parallel between my pro-
cesses and those formerly applied, to preparations of healthy
anatomy, to pathological anatomy, and to natural history.

My labour terminated, I have thought it my duty to de-
dicate to you a work the publication of which is due to the
decision which your wisdom and justice have dictated.

Allow me, gentlemen, to consider this dedication as a
new encouragement which you are willing to confer upon
me, and trust in the respectful sentiments with Avhich I have
the honour to be, your very humble and very grateful ser-



I HAD terminated my first researches upon the preserva-
tion of animal matters, and proposed to pubhsh them ; my
notes were collated and my work prepared, when the idea
struck me that in place of confining myself to the exposition
of the results which I had obtained, I might, with advan-
tage to science, present a history of the art of embalming
from the highest antiquity to our time, and compare my
processes, with those in use for the preservation of objects
of normal anatomy, pathological anatomy, and natural his-

This determination has decided me to publish a vo-
lume, in place of a pamphlet of fifty pages.

I had no model to follow, for no author had re-united in
the same book, the elements of which I wished this might
be composed. I found myself, therefore, necessitated to
collect together in the following pages the materials scattered
tliroughout numerous works.

For emhalming, Plutarch, Herodoi us, Diodorus Sicculus,
Stacy, Pliny, Cicero, Porphyrus, Prosper Mpin, Cassien,
Clauderus, Penicher, Baricel, Rodiginus, Corippus,
Gryphius, Crollius, the Reverend Fathers Kircher and
Mhiestrier, De Maillet, Volney, Rouelle, the Count de
Caylus, MM. Pariset, Rouyer, Bory de Saint Vincent,
and numerous other authors, have furnished me with des-
criptions and materials, which I was obliged to put in order
and bring before the eye of the reader, in order to present
to him a useful lecture, and in some sort preparatory to my
own ideas. As my point of departure was scientific data,
opinions and facts have come in place as the recital needed
them; and thanks to this idea, which has never abandoned


me, the numerous materials from which, in the commence-
ment, I feared disorder and confusion, have come, as if by con-
sent to dispose themselves in order ; so great is the influence
of a general idea in the arrangement of facts. I believe
that I have reduced to exact proportions the art of embalm-
ing among different nations. My predecessors had referred
too httle to nature, too much to man, in the appreciation
of Egyptian embalming; they had not sufficiently estimated
the dilficulties of the same practice among nations less fa-
voured by climate. Facts reconsidered and interrogated
with the aid of lights afforded by the recent progress of
physics and chemistry, have furnished us with consequences
naturally resulting from their attentive examination.

When the history of an art is followed step by step, as we
have done for that of embalming, one is astonished at a
psychological fact, equally applicable to every case — we see
how idle and common place the human mind is, and how
little prone it is to spontaneous activity. The gross and
inconsiderate imitation of the Egyptian processes during a
long series of ages, is one of the most remarkable examples
of this disposition.

Trials directed by a spirit of analysis and critical exami-
nation have enabled me to substitute for complex operations,
for long difficult and expensive operations, most frequently
inefficacious, a simple means, of a determined action, and
submitted for several years to the examination of committees
appointed by the Academy of Sciences and the Academy
of Medicine.

In order to trace the history of the preservation of objects
of anatomy and natural history I have had no occasion to go
back to an epoch distant from our own ; for this science is
altogether new. Beyond the discoveries of Chaussier, on
the preservative properties of the deuto-chloride of mercury,
the labours of MM. Dumeril, Cloquet and Breschet, there
is very little existing on this subject. So that I hav^e con-
cluded, after a complete exposition of the preservative
means given by these authors, it only remained for me to


propose the preservative substances which, after numerous
experiments, have appeared to me preferable to those
which they have recommended. They possess a pecuhar
merit for tlie formation of cabinets of natural history, that of
reducing the expense to at least one-nineteenth.

I have considered it my duty to give here the details of
the composition of the liquids employed, either as baths or
injections, by the physician and naturalist ; the interest of
science imposing on me this obligation. But, as regards
embalming, the same motive does not exist ; I have conse-
quently abstained from giving in totality the means employed
in this operation, reserving to myself the care of this pro-
cess on the request of families or physicians.* ^

It was not until after many unsuccessful efforts that I suc-
ceeded in discovering a method capable of insuring the inde-
finite preservation of bodies deposited in the earth. A
thousand unexpected difficulties arose in my path ; and to
cite only one, at the end of eight or nine months of preser-
vation, a vegetable production, known to botanists under
the name of byssus, for a long time embarrassed me ; I tried
jmmerous means, before discovering one capable of suppres-
sing this formation.

The perfection to Mdiich I have brought the art of em-
balming, leaves little to desire. So convinced am I at length
of the efficacy of the processes which I employ, that I shall
be always ready, at the request of the authorities or of fa-
milies, to exhume those bodies which I have already em-
balmed in great numbers, at any expressed period of time.

• This paragraph, evidently empyrical in its bearing, is derogatory to
Gannal as a man of science. We further believe that the pretended
secret of his manipulations is of little consequence to the success of the
operation: it is generally understood that to the fluid acetate of alumina
(produced by the chemical action induced by the mixture of the solutions
of acetate of lead and alum,) to be injected, a little arsenic is added, to
prevent the formation of the byssus, and attacks of insects, also some car-
mine, to give to the subject a healthy colour. — TV.


The Egyptians embalmed their dead, and the processes
which they employed were sufficiently perfect to secure them
an indefinite preservation. This is a fact of which the py-
ramids, the caverns, and all the sepultures of Egypt offer us
irrefragible proofs. But what were the causes and the ori-
gin of this custom? We have in answer to this question
only hypothesis and conjecture. In the absence of valid
documents, each one explains according to the bias of his
mind, or the nature of his studies, a usage, the origin of
which is lost in the night of time. One of the ancients in-
forms us that the Egyptians took so much pains for the pre-
servation of the body, believing that the soul inhabited it so
long as it subsisted. Cassien, on the other hand, assures us
that they invented this method because they were unable
to bury their dead during the period of inundation. Hero-
dotus, in his third book, observes, that embalming had for
its object the securing of bodies from the voracity of ani-
mals; they did not bury them, says he, for fear they would
be eaten by worms, and they did not burn them, because
they considered fire like a luild beast that devours every-
thing it can seize upon. Filial piety and respect for the
dead, according to Diodorus Sicculus, were the sentiments
which inspired the Egyptians with the idea of embalming the
dead bodies. De Maillet, in his tenth letter upon Egypt, re-
fers only to a religious motive the origin of embalming : " The
priests and sages of Egypt taught their fellow citizens that,
after a certain number of ages, which they made to amount
to thirty or forty thousand years, and at which they fixed
the epoch of the great revolution when the earth would re-
turn to the point at which it commenced its existence, their
souls would return to the same bodies which they formerly



inhabited. But, in order to arrive, after death, to this wished
for resurrection, two things were absokitely necessary ; first,

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Online LibraryJ.-N. (Jean-Nicolas) GannalHistory of embalming, and of preparations in anatomy, pathology, and natural history ; including an account of a new process for embalming → online text (page 1 of 18)