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Debut Of Thoracic Percussion

AUENBRUGGER, Leopold. Inventum novum ex percussione thoracis humani ut signo Abstrusos Interni Pectoris Morbos Detegendi. Vienna, J.T. Trattner, 1761.

Large 8vo., 95, (1) pp. Bound in contemporary tree calf, spine with raised bands, re-backed. Discrete ownership inscription in lower right of title, release stamp on verso, lib. perforation stamp on title & D5 minimized; typical light browning, foxing and spotting in margin of title and on several leaves; otherwise good.


Very rare first edition, first issue (without the errata printed on verso of F8) of "one of the greatest of medical classiscs" describing a new method of physical diagnosis--thoracic percussion, namely, tapping a patient's chest and determining from the resultant sound whether it was healthy or diseased. The method was rooted in two unrelated strains in Auenbrugger's biography: as the son of an innkeeper, he used to tap wine casks to determine their relative fullness, providing him with an analogy for the hollow cavity of the chest. And as he was highly musical, he noticed that the sounds produced by diseased and healthy chests varied considerably.

Auenbrugger experimented with his method for seven years, confirming diagnoses on live patients with post-mortem dissection when possible, and presented his method here for the first time, along with 14 case histories. Like many advances in diagnostic and surgical technique, its very simplicity made it an object of derision: The greatness of Auenbrugger's discovery of the value of immediate percussion of the chest was not at first recognized. His little book met with a cold reception, while a French translation by Rozière de la Chassagne in 1770 attracted little notice. But Auenbrugger lived to see the appearance in 1808 of J.N. Corvisart's classic translation of the book, after which the value of percussion was universally recognized. - Garrison & Morton, 2672

* Garrison-Morton 2672; Lilly, p. 127; Willius & Keys, pp. 190-213; Norman I.81; Heirs of Hippocrates 954.

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