“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” at DePaul: New Acquisition Spotlight

Paré explains that when this creature was born to a Flemish woman “…it filled the whole room with a noise and hissing, running to every side to find out a lurking hole wherein to hide its head…”

Centuries before J.K. Rowling gave her devoted readers the fictional textbook, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Ambroise Paré (1510-1590) compiled his own textbook that included descriptions of unicorns, basilisks, and centaurs.

A 1678 translation of renowned surgeon Ambroise Paré’s collected work, The Works of That Famous Chirurgeon Ambrose Parey, was recently acquired by DePaul Special Collections and Archives. Paré was known throughout early modern Europe for his unparalleled knowledge of the human body, and many historians consider him to be the father of modern surgery.

In book VI, Paré described this image as “the cavities of the middle and lower Bellies, the Bowels being taken out, but most part of the Bones and Muscles remaining.”

After distinguishing himself both in Paris and on battlefields across Europe, Paré was named surgeon to the King of France by 1552. Over his remarkable career, Paré served four French monarchs: Henri II, François II, Charles IX, and Henri III. It is often written that princes and generals would willingly take to the battlefield once they heard that Paré would be accompanying them and he is remembered for his dedication to treating soldiers of all ranks. Paré is credited with a number of discoveries and inventions, but perhaps his greatest contribution to medicine was his publications. Paré lived in a time when the majority of physicians considered surgery beneath their profession and it was mainly practiced by lowly barber-surgeons. Through his fame and the dissemination of his teachings, Paré did a great deal to elevate the status of surgeons and advance medical knowledge.

Paré suggests that this artificial nose should be made out of gold, silver, or paper mache. One expects that he made a number of these noses for patients with syphilis or wounded in war.

His work is a compendium of knowledge collected from ancient sources like Galen and Pliny through to his contemporaries, such as well-known anatomist Andreas Vesalius. Unlike modern medical texts, Paré’s detailed study goes beyond the human body to include observations on the natural world. Introduced in the 700-page text are descriptions of methods of avoiding the poisonous breath of cats, reports of monstrous births, diagrams of his newly invented prosthetics, and how to identify deceptions of the devil. In over 400 woodcuts, Paré illustrated everything from celestial bodies and sea monsters to medicinal plants and amputation methods.

In book XXV, Paré details a 1254 birth of a colt in Verona, the colt born “..with the perfect face of a man, but all the rest of the body like a horse.”

The vast range of topics covered by Paré makes this book a wonderful primary source for DePaul students studying anything from the history of medicine or gender to graphic design and biology. Those seeking Fantastic Beasts, or any number of other subjects analyzed by Paré, are encouraged to visit DePaul Special Collections and Archives.  To learn more about DePaul’s rare books collections, contact Special Collections and Archives at 773-325-7864, or archives@depaul.edu


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