New Heberden Library Exhibition -'A treatise of the diseases of the bones'

The new addition to the Heberden Library exhibition is 'A treatise of the diseases of the bones' published in 1726.


Jean Louis Petit (1674–1750) published the first important book on the diseases and injuries of bones and joints in 1705. This is the first English translation of his work. It includes the first description of the condition osteomalacia, softening of the bones:


It begins to discover it self by Pains both in the Bones and soft Parts, which alter every Minute … the Bones become soft, and as it were dissolved, which occasions their breaking every where; they no longer being hard enough to keep an Equilibirum with the Muscles: At other times they are Rotten, and as it were Worm-eaten … the Mortification of the Limbs follows.


This pages illustrate a device called an ambi, said to have been invented by Hippocrates to treat 'luxations' (dislocations) of the arm. On the following pages Petit comments that it is not a good machine to use because it 'thrusts the Head of the Bone into its Socket before the Extension'. He later reveals a better machine of his own devising, which also does not terrify the patient with the 'Noise of the gingling of Iron'.


The book is displayed in the Garrod room of the BSR office so feel free to come and have a look.


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