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Ambroise Paré and his times, 1510-1590 online

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" Doncques je vous prie humblemcnt prendre en gre ce petit labeur r
lequel si je cognois vous estre agreable, m' esforcerai faire aultre
chose, selon que mon petit esprit pourra comprendre . " — A. P.


Cbe Unicfterbocfter press



Copyright 1897


Entered at Stationers' Hall, London

Ube iknickerbocfcec press, flew ISorft




I Dedicate in Gratitude

This Story of the Life of Another

Great Surgeon


EVEN though a book goes over old ground, it
may yet be welcome ; and Ambroise Fare's
life was so full of good works, adventure, and ro-
mance, that it ought to be known and honoured in
other countries besides France. Therefore I have
put these notes together, conveying into them the
facts that have been established by Malgaigne,
Le Paulmier, and other authors. We seldom hear
his name in England : save that it is sometimes
said he invented the ligature of arteries, which he
did not; or he is mentioned in a First of October
address to medical students; as was the fate of
Hannibal in Juvenal's time — " Ut pueris placeas et
declam.atio fias. " Such an address, perfect of its
kind, given in 1889 by Mr. Godlee at University
College Hospital, set me to work on this present

To Malgaigne, who edited Park's works in 1840,
and to MM. Le Paulmier, B6gin, and Turner we
owe our knowledge of the details of his life. Dr.

vi Preface

Le Paulmier, himself descended from that Julien
Le Paulmier who had a controversy with Pare about
gunshot wounds, has published a whole host of valu-
able documents; parish registers, law reports, trans-
fers of property, minutes of meetings, lists of the
Royal household, and the like. From these, and
from his own writings, we may almost know Am-
broise Pare as if he were living now.

By help of text-books of history, and the memoirs
of Pierre de L'Estoile, I have made a sort of back-
ground of the times in which his fourscore years
were spent, I had intended to set the Journeys in
Diverse Places at the beginning of this book, making
the rest of it a commentary upon them ; but it
seemed better, after all, to give them their proper
place in the story of his life. Yet they, of course,
are the one thing here to be read again and again.

Mr. Pater's Gaston de Latour contains many ex-
quisite pictures of France and of Paris, as Ambroise
Pare saw his country. But Gaston himself, while
he recalls Ambroise's patient, the Marquis D'Auret,
is no more like Pare than my sentences are like the
beauty of Mr. Pater's work.

By the kindness of Dr. Le Paulmier, I am allowed
to reproduce the portrait and the autograph signa-
ture from his delightful book. The portrait, in
the possession of Mme. La Marquise Le Charron,



a descendant of one of Fare's daughters, was painted
when he was sixty-five : the signature was written
on a receipt for some money, a year later. The
other illustrations are from Fare's books, from old
prints in the British Museum, and from M. Martial's
Ancie7i Paris. I hope that Mr. G. H. Futnam is
right in his generous belief that what I have written
is worthy of so many pictures.
London, 1897.


Introduction . '

I. — Boyhood and Early Life. 1510-1541 ,

II. — " Journeys in Diverse Places." 1537-

III. — Notes to the " Journeys in Diverse
Places ".....,

IV. — Paris. 1541-1572 . . , . .

v.— Paris. 1573-1590

VI. — Opera Omnia ......

VII. — Some Aspects of Pare's Life

VIII, — Pare's Account of the Plague






Portrait of Ambroise Pare


Reproduced, with the permission of the author, from Dr. Le Paulmier's
" Life of Pare."

Le Tour du Temple ...... vi

Constructed in 1200 ; destroyed in 1811.

Le Boulevart du Temple, in 1630 , . . i
* Pont Neuf ........ 12

" Various Cauteries . . . . . .26

^ Instruments of General Surgery ... 36
"^ Amputating Instruments ..... 48

' Portrait, Franqois Due de Guise ... 60

From a print by Theret.

"^ Various Arrows and Detachable Arrow-
heads. 74

^ Instruments for Extracting Arrow-heads

OR Links of Chain-armour ... 92

^ Instruments for Extracting Bullets . . 100

° Battle of Saint Denis, 1567 .... 102

^ Battle of Moncontour, October 3, 1569 . . 106

' Pont, Quai, et Place du Pont Saint Michel, 158

' From Martial's " Ancien Paris."

^ From Fare's Works.

' From an engraving in the Print-Room, British Museum,



Ancien Pont Saint Michel
Bird's-eye View of Paris Early in the
XVIIth Century

Showing Fare's houses.

Portrait of Henri II . . .

Portrait of Catherine de Medici .

Portrait OF CoLiGNY ....

Le Petit Chatelet ....

Portrait of Charles IX .

Hotel des Ursins, 1670

Cage d'Escalier du XVI'^^ Siecle : Rue

Chanoinesse ....
Portrait of Henri III
Siege of Paris, 1590 ....
College de Cluny : Rue de Cluny .
Reducing a Dislocation of the Elbow
Portrait of Ambroise Par^ at 75 '.

From a print by Horbeck.

' From Martial's " Ancien Paris."

* From Fare's Works,

^ From an engraving in the Print-Room, British Museum.








CEuvres completes d' Ambroise Par^ : revues ct colla-
tionnes siir toiites les Editions. J. F. Malgaigne,
Paris, 1840. Three vols., with a critical and
historical introduction by Malgaigne. 351 pp.

The Workes of that Famous Chiritrgion A. Parey,
trans, out of Latin and compared with the
French. T. Johnson, London, 1665. Folio.

Ambroise Par^ d'apres de Nouveaux Documents.
Le Paulmier, Paris, 1884.

Ambroise Pare. Emile Begin, Gaz. Hebd. de Me'de-
cine. Paris, Oct., 1878-Jan., 1879. XV., 629,
645, 725.

Ambroise ParL E. Turner, Gaz. Hebd. de MMecine,
May, 1879. XVI., 309, 399.

Discourse upon the Life of Ambroise Par^. S. D.
Gross, Philadelphia, 1873.

Ambroise Par^, est-il mort Catholique ? T. Tr6v6dy,
1890. (British Museum.)

Extrait de F Lnd^pendant de V Quest (Laval).

Mhnoires pour servir a Vhistoire de France, etc.
Pierre de L'Estoile, Paris. Edition of 1819.

xiv List of Chief References

La France Protestante. Eugene and Emile Haag,
Paris, 1846-59.

Hist oir e de France. Michelet, Paris, 1876-78.

Histoire de France. Guizot, Paris, 1870-76.

Abr^g^ de V Histoire de France. Duruy, Paris, 1851.

Me'moires de Francois de la None.

Memoires de Marguerite de Valois.

Ancien Paris. A. P. Martial, Paris, 1866.

Archives Curieiises de V Histoire de France, depuis
Louis XLjusqiCa Louis XVHL L. Cimber and
F. Danjou. Paris, 1835. Series I., vol. 5.

Horribles Cruaut^s des Huguenots en France. Extrait
d'un volume, intitule "Theatre des Cruautes
des H6retiques de nostre temps." Anvers,
chez Adrien Hubert, 1588. (British Museum.)

Etudes sur Ambroise Pare. These de Montpellier.
C. M. A. Senelle, Montpellier. J. M. Aine, 1863.
(British Museum.)


hi s



" Thundering and bursting
In torrents, in waves —
Carolling and shouting

Over tombs, amid graves —
See ! on the cumber'd plain

Clearing a stage,
Scattering the past about,
Comes the new age."

Matthew Arnold,

MALGAIGNE, in his long and learned introduc-
tion to the works of Ambroise Par6, has said
that the way was cleared for his coming, and all
Europe seemed waiting and watching for him. But
a man like Pare is welcome whenever he comes ; nor
are we here concerned with the history of surgery
before he put his hand to it. From the time of
Celsus, it was for the most part a history of decline
and fall : the Arabian schools had set tradition and
authority above observation and experiment ; and so


2 Ambroise Pare

long as the Church forbade the shedding of blood to
the physicians, surgery was kept at the level of a
low unorganised trade. Those who did great things
in the ^Middle Ages for the practice of surgery may
be counted on one hand : Constantine of Salerno,
Guillaume de Salicetis, Lanfranc, Guy de Chauliac;
and perhaps, for England, John of Gaddesden and
John Ardern. And Guy de Chauliac — whose writ-
ings were expounded to Pare during his apprentice-
shio — was a man after Fare's own heart: —

" Let the surgeon be well educated, skilful, ready, and
■courteous. Let him be bold in those things that are
safe, fearful in those that are dangerous ; avoiding all
evil methods and practices. Let him be tender with the
sick, honourable to men of his profession, wise in his
predictions ; chaste, sober, pitiful, merciful ; not covet-
ous or extortionate ; but rather let him take his wages
in moderation, according to his work, and the wealth of
his patient, and the issue of the disease, and his own
worth." *

The service that these few great men did for
surgery was twofold : they made a stand against
the Arabian school, against Averroes and Avicenna,
and they mostly wrote or translated in their mother-
tongue, endeavouring to return past tradition to the
pure teaching of Hippocrates. Malgaigne has been

* From the Grande Chirurgie of Guy de Chauliac, written in 1363,
when he was physician to Pope Urban V. at Avignon.

Introduction 3

careful to show how their work, long after they were
dead, was brought to life again by the invention of
printing, the discovery of the New World, and the
return of the Renaissance to Greek art and manu-
scripts : —

" The hunt for Greek manuscripts was started on
behalf of literature and theology : afterward came the
turn of the sciences. A copy of Celsus was found in
1443 at Milan ; Paulus ^gineta also was discovered
about the same time ; finally, several Greek manuscripts
of Hippocrates and of Galen were unearthed. Men
could now set the writings themselves against the trans-
lations and commentaries of the Arabians : Aristotle
against Averroes, Galen against Avicenna. The com-
mentator was often far gone from the sense and spirit of
the original, and a choice must be made between them ;
and since the only ruling philosophy was still faith in
authority, the oldest authority was judged to be the best :
men left the Arabian standard and rallied round Hippo-
crates and Galen, This might seem only a change of
masters, but it was not to be done without revolt. Soon
they began to mistrust even their new masters : Aris-
totle did not always agree with Plato, nor Galen always
with himself,"

The great iconoclast was still to come : and this
was Paracelsus. Born in 1493, more than a century
after the death of Guy de Chauliac, and neither
courteous, pitiful, nor sober, he yet had the strength
for the work that must be done. He is the very

4 Ambroise Pare

incarnation of the spirit of free thought in medicine,
the man above all others who broke the Arabian
schools, and struck at the solemn rubbish taught at
the Universities. He had the courage to begin his
lectures at Basel (1526) by lighting some sulphur in
a brasier, and casting into it the books of Galen,
Averroes, and Avicenna. " Sic vos ardebitis in
Gehenna" was his judgment on them; and he went
on with his lecture part in Latin part in German.
This was six years after Luther had burned the
Pope's Bull, and the volumes of the canon law, at
Wittenberg; and four years after his translation of
the Bible. The same spirit moved two men so un-
like : and it would be pleasant to write an essay on
the hundred best books that have been burned.

When Paracelsus began lecturing, Ambroise Par^
was sixteen years old. He was not much concerned
at any time of his life with art, or literature, or logic,
or philosophy. He was fond of animals, and had
something of an ear for music, and a taste for
poetry; but he learned no Greek or Latin in his
boyhood, was not a student at any University, and
cared for no country in the world save France. He
thought for himself in surgery, but was no rebel
against authority like that fallen angel Paracelsus:
nor is there anything to show that he ever used his in-
fluence at the Court to help or hinder a political in-

Introduction 5

trigue. Yet that his life may stand in proper relief,
here must be noted some of the great changes that
were at work on the nations while he lived.

In the year of his birth, 1 5 10, Louis XII. was King
of France, Maximilian was Emperor, Henry VIII.
was King of England. During his life, the crown of
France passed from Louis XII. to Francois I., then
to Henri II., then to his three sons in succession,
Frangois II., Charles IX., and Henri III., and then
to Henri IV. In England, Edward VI. succeeded
to his father's throne, then Mary, then Elizabeth.
The Empire passed from Maximilian to Charles V.,
and afterward to Philip of Spain. If we would
measure Fare's life by English history, he was born
three years before the battle of Flodden Field, and
died a year and four months after the destruction of
the Armada. When Luther burned the Pope's Bull,
and Raphael died at Rome, and the Kings of France
and England met on the Field of the Cloth of Gold,
Ambroise was a boy ten years old. At the death of
Bayard, fourteen ; at the fall of Wolsey, twenty.
When Calais was taken from England he was forty-
eight ; and following the fortunes of war, he served
against the English in Brittany in 1543, at Boulogne
in 1545, and at Havre in 1563: — perhaps the only
army surgeon who has twice seen discretion outweigh
valour with English soldiers.

6 Ambroise Pare

But the fighting between France and England was
nothing to him in comparison with the wars against
Germany, Italy, and Spain. Other nations were
involved in them — Switzerland and the Netherlands ;
the King of Catholic France made secret advances
in 1535 toward the German Protestants, and openly
allied himself in 1543 with the Sultan Suleiman; the
favour of the Pope was now to the one side, now to
the other; Italy was invaded again and again.
From 1537 to 1558, the one great enemy against
whom he served was the Emperor Charles V., or
at the last his son, Philip of Spain, with their Ger-
man and Spanish armies, and their Italian and
English auxiliary forces; then, at the siege of
Rouen in 1562, he first saw civil war, his country
divided against herself, Catholic against Huguenot.

Before he died, the wlieel had come full circle.
From Louis XII. to Henri IV., from the battle of
Spurs to the battle of Ivry, from Flodden Field to
the Armada — whichever way his fourscore years are
measured, they were long enough for a whole cycle
of changes ; and the great events through which he
lived mark alike the length of his days, and the
opportune moment of his death. As he grevv^ older,
the times got worse. All his life he had been in the
midst of wars; but at first France was fighting a
foreign enemy, Germany, Spain, or England ; later,


came civil war, the wars of religion, and the massacres
of the Huguenots; finally, the long death-struggle
between Henri HI. and the Guises, and the siege
of Paris by Henri IV. All his life he had been
under a despotism ; but the Kings moved on a down-
ward grade, with the influence of the Queen-Mother
heavy on all three of her sons. All his life, he had
a great love of the poor ; but their misery reached
its zenith in 1590, when during the siege they died,
thousands of them, from starvation.

If Ambroise Par^ had come to his end three years
sooner than he did, he would have gone without
hope for France. Between 1587 and 1590, the
whole scene changed. In March, 1587, came the
news of the execution of Mary Queen of Scots; in
August, 1588, the Armada was destroyed; in De-
cember of the same year came the murder of the
Guises. In January, 1589, the Queen-Mother died;
in August the King was assassinated. The battle
of Ivry was fought on March 14, 1590, and Paris
was besieged by Henri IV. that same summer.
And then, at the last, only four months before his
death, in the eightieth year of his life, we read in the
memoirs of Pierre de L'Estoile the exquisite story
how Par^ spoke his mind to the great Archbishop
of Lyon, the chief leader of the League, the sworn
enemy of the Huguenots. The two men met just

8 Ambroise Pare

outside Park's house; and at the sight of him, Pare
broke down, not with rage, but with the misery of
standing in his old age among the dead and dying,
face to face with a priest who was furious against
peace : —

" I remember about eight or ten days at most before
the siege was raised, Monseigneur the Archbishop, going
over the end of the Pont Saint Michel, when he found
his way blocked by a crowd of those who were dying of
hunger, they cried out to him begging for bread or else
for death ; he not knowing what to say to them, Master
Ambroise Pare meets him, and says to him in a loud
voice, ' Monseigneur, this poor people that you see here
round you are dying of the cruel pains of famine, and
they ask pity of you. For God's sake. Monsieur, have
pity on them, if you want God to have pity on you ;
think a little of the high place to which God has called
you, and how the cry of these poor men and women goes
up to Heaven, and is a warning sent you by God, to re-
mind you of the duties of your office, for which you have
to answer to Him. Therefore, by that office and by the
power that we all know you have, bring about peace for
us, and give us a way of living, for the poor can no
longer help themselves. Do you not see that all Paris is
dying, because of the villains who wish to prevent peace,
which is the special work of God ? Set your whole
strength against them, Monsieur ; take in hand the
cause of this poor afflicted people, and God will bless
you and repay you.' ISIonseigneur the Archbishop said
nothing, or next to nothing ; only he was patient to
hear him out and not interrupt him, which was not his

Introduction 9

usual way ; and he said afterward the good man had
fairly astonished him ; and again, this was not the sort
of politics he was wont to hear talked ; and Master Pare
had waked him up, and made him think of many things,"

The siege was raised on the 29th of August : Am-
broise Pare died before the end of the year: —

" On Thursday, December the twentieth, the eve of
Saint Thomas, at Paris in his own house, died Master
Ambroise Pare, the King's surgeon, eighty years old, a
learned man, and the chief of all surgeons ; who, even
against the times, all his life talked and spoke openly for
peace and for the people ; which made him as much
beloved by the good as he was begrudged and hated by
the wicked."

He lived into the beginning of better things for
France. It was a long life, from Louis XII. to
Henri IV., from Maximilian to Philip of Spain,
from Henry VIII. to Elizabeth. Among his co-
temporaries ^ were Ignatius Loyola and Saint
Theresa, Luther and Erasmus, Calvin and Knox,
Shakespeare and Rabelais, Raphael and Titian,
Paracelsus, Servetus, Sylvius, and Vesalius. He

* Bernard Palissy, the potter, was born the same year as Ambroise ;
and the two old men were together in Paris so late as 1589, Pare in
his home, Palissy in the Bastille. In Lent, 1575, Bernard Palissy
gave three lectures in Paris, " On Springs, Stones, Metals, and
Other Natures." (There is something in the title of these lectures
that suggests a likeness between Palissy and Mr. Ruskin.) The price
of admission was a crown ; and Pare's name is on the subscribers' list.

lo Ambroise Pare

followed the wars, off and on, for thirty-two years;
he practised in Paris for more than half a century,
and was surgeon to four kings ; and even against
the times he kept his hands clean, and his heart full
of sympathy. He has been called the John Baptist
of surgery, in the sense that he prepared the way
for surgeons after him ; but it would be hard to find
a worse mistake than this. He never dreamed of
modern surgery ; he made no final change in the
principles of his art, he only cared to practise it.
Yet he has a right to the name ; for he stood for the
truth at the court of more than one Herod, and ever
looked to see the deliverance of his countiy.




" Between two worlds, one dead,
The other powerless to be born."

Matthew Arnold.

AMBROISE PAR£ was born in the little village
of Bourg-Hersent, close to Laval, in Maine;
the village has now become part of Laval. The
year of his birth has been much disputed, and many
different dates have been given for it ; but nothing
has been brought forward to set aside L'Estoile's
evidence in favour of the year 15 10. His father, ac-
cording to one account, was " coffretier," a maker of
wooden chests ; according to another, he was valet-
de-chambre and barber to the Seigneur de Laval.
Ambroise had a sister, Catherine, who married
Gaspard Martin, a master barber-surgeon of Paris:
a brother, Jehan, who was a master barber-surgeon
in practice at Vitre in Brittany ; and another, also

12 Ambroise Pare

called Jehan, who followed the father's trade, and
was a chest-maker in Paris.

Of Gaspard Martin, we know that he became
Ambroise's patient, and died after amputation of
the leg, with the new method of ligature. Long
afterward, only five years before Pare died, a pam-
phlet was published against him, by one Comperat,
of Carcasonne, recalling the death of his brother-in-
laAV under his hands.

The brother at Vitr^ is twice quoted by Ambroise,
for his skill in detecting the sham diseases of pro-
fessional beggars. His wife's name was Charlotte
David ; and he had a son, Bertrand, of whom we
shall hear again. He died some time before 1549.

The brother in Paris lived in the Rue de La
Huchette. He married Marie Perier, and after her
death Marie de Neufville. There is reason to be-
lieve his business did not prosper. He died before
1560, leaving a daughter of his second wife. Her
name was Jehanne, and of her, too, we shall hear

Of the boyhood of Ambroise Pare at Bourg-
Hersent there are told two or three stories, which
have no great authority. It is said he went to the
village school; afterward his father put him to
learn Latin with one M. d'Orsoy, chaplain in the
house of a great gentleman near the villagfe. The

FROM Martial's "ancien paris.''

Boyhood and Early Life 13

chaplain, being ill-paid for this service, set him to
weed the garden and look after the mule. Then
Laurence Colot came down from Paris to perform
an operation on one of the chaplain's friends; Am-
broise assisted him, and was fired to try his fortune
in Paris. What we know for certain is that he never
learned Greek or Latin, and that he was at Angers
when he was fifteen years old : —

" I desire not to arrogate to myself that I have read
Galen either in Greek or in Latin ; for it did not please
God to be so gracious to my youth that it should be
instructed either in the one tongue or in the other."


"Anno Domini, 1525, when I was at Angers, I re-
member a rogue had cut off the arm of a hanged man,
still foul and tainted, which he had attached to his
doublet, fixing it with a fork against his side, and hid
his own arm behind his back, under his cloak, that all
might think the hanged man's arm was his own ; and he
kept begging alms at the door of the Temple,* for Saint
Anthony's sake. One Good Friday, everyone was giving
him alms, seeing the rotten limb, thinking he spoke
truth. The rogue having little by little loosed the arm,
at last it came away, and fell to the ground ; and he go-
ing quick to pick it up, was seen by the people to have
two good arms, beside that of the hanged man. Then he
was taken and ordered to be whipped, by decision of the

* The Temple here is the chapel of the Huguenots ; and this
chance familiar reference to it has been taken as evidence that
Ambroise was brought up as a Huguenot.

14 Ambroise Pare

magistrate, with the rotten arm hanged round his neck,
in front of his stomach : and banished for ever out of the
country." (Book xix., ch. 21.)

Since his brother was in the profession, and his
sister had married into it, Ambroise set himself to
surgery. Where he served his apprenticeship, who
was the master barber-surgeon who taught him, he

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