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RE: VMs: Strange disorders
At 21:38 17/06/2003 -0500, GC wrote:
What I don't get though is the constant reference by the medical profession
to the lack of anesthesia in surgery and routine medicine during these
times. There is a wealth of literary comment on opiates and other plants
that are known to possess anesthetic qualities. These were either taken
internally before procedures or in many cases applied topically to wounds
before suturing, etc. I'm no medical professional, but it does seem to me
that these guys did their best to alleviate pain. Not very good by modern
standards, but at least they tried.
Patrizia Catellani's page on Caterina Sforza's Experimenti (roughly
1490-1500) covers this:
Here's my rough-and-ready translation of the last three paragraphs:-
Perhaps the prescription in Caterina Sforza's book that
deserves the greatest attention is the one entitled:-
"A far dormire una persona per tal modo che porrai operare
in chirurgia quel che vorrai e non ti sentirà et est
["To make a person sleep in such a way to perform
a surgical operation, while feeling no pain: and
this has been proven" (probatum est)]
The contents listed by Caterina towards the end of the 15th Century
are largely similar to another anaesthetic (comprising opium, sour
mulberry [perhaps blackberry?] juice, mandrake leaves, ivy, hemlock
and other plants), found both in a 9th Century manuscript held
in Montecassino Monastery, and also in a book of surgery dated to
Bologna in 1265.
Because I was interested in seeing whether the VMS might have been part of
some anaesthetic literature tradition, I asked Patrizia for the MS
references on those two latter sources, which she later confirmed as having
come from an article written by a historical journalist called Venerio
Montevecchi, who works in Imola (Caterina Sforza's home town).
However, despite Patrizia calling him a few times, he proved to be fairly
uninterested in being tracked down by her, which I think is a bit of a
As a side note, in this Italian blog (please excuse my rough translation)...
...Venerio Montevecchi is mentioned as having written (in a local Imolese
paper) about a historical Romagna tradition of growing hemp for clothes in
the Middle Ages, but with a particular boom during the 1700s. In fact, in
1749, Casanova went to Cesena intending the sexual conquest of a land-owner
friend's 14-year old daughter, but the intense smoke from hemp burning
nearby left him dazed and confused, with hallucinations and a panic attack.
However, before Imola's brothels were closed, Ferrarese prostitutes were
generally believed, on account of the density of hemp fumes in their area,
to give "unforgettable sexual performances".
Make of that what you will. ;-)
Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....
PS: "Probatum est", Heidelberg & Alchemy:-
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