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Tractatus de Corde item de motu et colore sanguinis et chyli in eum transitu.


Elzevier, 1669. Small 8vo. Contemporary full vellum. Old bookplate removed from inside of front board. Slight discolouration around "item" on title-page. A bit of brownspotting throughout. Last text leaf with small holes to outer margin, far from affecting text. All in all a very nice copy. (16), 232 pp + 7 engraved plates, the last of which with a neat reinforcement to folding. ¶ The rare second edition, printed merely a few months after the first (London, 1669), of Lower's groundbreaking main work, which immediately changed that the way the role of the heart and the lungs were perceived in the human body. The work is considered a milestone of medical history, as it provides one of the earliest accounts of blood transfusion, it established air as a necessity for life, and it was the first to demonstrate the scroll-like structure of the heart.

The work is groundbreaking in giving the most accurate description of the structure of the heart to date, in exploring the structure and function of the veins and arteries, and in elucidating the mechanism of respiration. "It had been known since antiquity that venous and arterial blood differed in colour; Lower showed that this difference was caused purely by the admixture of air as the blood from the right side of the hear flowed through the lungs. He even showed that venous blood could be made to resemble arterial bllod by shaking a sample in air. He concluded that the change in colour was caused by the blood's absorption of air, which explained why air is necessary to life." (PMM 149).
The present work furthermore contains a very interesting account of the earliest attempts at blood transfusion. An account that came to be highly influential in that the experiment was imitated in both France, Italy, and Austria.

"The favorable reception proved enduring, and for many years Lower's "Tractatus de Corde" continued to be cited as an important and authoritative work, clearly in the high Herveian tradition of "anatomical experiment." In the next century, too, Lower continued to receive credit. His accomplishments were enthusiastically acknowledged by Senac in his "Traité de la Structure de Coeur" (Paris, 1749) and by the influential Boerhaave. The "De Corde" itself was published in a Leiden edition as late as 1749. (D.S.B. VIII:526).

"Lower was an ardent supporter of Harvey, and this classic treatise is the first important work on cardiac physiology to appear after the work of Harvey. In this book, Lower first described many finer structures of the heart, including the scroll-like nature of the musculature. He discussed the physiology and mechanism of the heart and of respiration, described his experiments on transfusion, and gave an accurate description of tricuspid valve endocarditis. His chief contributions included his concept of the heart's musculature, his explanation of the muscular nature of the heartbeat, and his proof that the dark venous blood becomes bright red on passing through the lungs by virtue of being brought into contact with air in the lungs. This Amsterdam edition appeared the same year as the London edition, which is usually considered to be the first." (Heirs of Hippocrates).

"Lower was the first to demonstrate the scroll-like structure of the cardiac muscle. He was one of the first to transfuse blood. Chapter III of the above work records how Lower injected dark venous blood into the insufflated lungs; he concluded that its subsequent bright red colour was due to its absorption of some of the air passing through the lungs." (G&M: 761).

Garrion & Morton No. 761 (1st.Ed.); Printing and the Mind of Man 149 (1st. Ed.); Heirs of Hippocrates: 582; Cushing L372; Osler 3277; Russel 541; Waller 6047; Lilly Library, Notable Medical Books, p. 87; Fulton, Lower 6; Willems 1412; Wellcome III, 552.


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