Publisher Information: Paris: J. Bullot, 1748.
Daviel, Jacques (1696-1752). Lettre de M. Daviel, conseiller, chirurgien ordinaire du roi en survivance & par quartier, à M. de Joyeuse, docteur en médecine de l’Université de Montpellier . . . 12mo. 24pp. [Paris:] J. Bullot, 1748. Original blank wrappers; preserved in a modern folding case. One or two small spots but fine otherwise.
Extremely Rare First Separate Edition, in a different setting of type from the version published on page 198 of the Mercure de France in September 1748. Not recorded in either OCLC or the Karlsruhe library database, both of which cite only two digital reproductions of the journal article. This is the first copy we have seen in our five-plus decades in the trade, and the work appears to have been unfamiliar to historians of ophthalmology, leading to some errors—Blodi, whom we cite below, wrongly states that Daviel performed his first cataract extraction in 1750, and Garrison-Morton.com cites only Daviel’s 1752 report to the French Academy of Surgery.
Daviel originated the modern method of treating cataract by extraction of the lens, a technique he perfected between April and September 1745. Prior to Daviel, the ancient practice of couching—pushing the clouded lens back into the eye using a sharp object—was the only way to treat cataracts. “It remained for a French surgeon, Jacques Daviel, to change the situation suddenly and dramatically . . . When one of his patients, a one-eyed eremite, became blind in his second eye after Daviel had dislocated the lens, this conscientious surgeon realized that another surgical approach had to be found. Accepting the new concept that the lens is the site of the cataract, Daviel began to experiment on autopsy eyes and animals. As soon as he was convinced that the lens could be extracted, he performed this operation . . . on the living human eye. Daviel used a corneal incision to cut into the cataract and extract it. The incision was usually semicircular, often close to the limbus forming a ‘corneal flap’” (Blodi, pp. 167-168).
In the present work Daviel gave a detailed account of how he came to develop his method of cataract extraction, and described a successful operation (his seventh) performed in Marseilles on 18 October 1745. He also wrote of his continuing success after relocating to Paris:
"Depuis mon arrivée à Paris, j’ai été consulté par près de quatre cens malades, & j’ai fait plus de deux cens opérations, tant de cataracts, qu’autres affections des yeux, avec tout le succès qu’on peut attendre dans des maladies aussi délicates . . . De 75 opérations que j’ai faites pour la cataracte à Paris, la plûpart à des malades de mauvais tempérament, avec des yeux peu favorables pour l’opération . . . j’ai eu le bonheur de réussir à soixante & une (p. 7)."
[Since my arrival in Paris, I have been consulted by nearly four hundred patients, and I have performed more than two hundred operations, both for cataracts and other affections of the eyes, with all the success that one might expect in such delicate diseases . . . Of the 75 cataract surgeries I have done in Paris, mostly on patients with poor constitutions, with eyes ill-suited to the operation. . . I had the good fortune to succeed at sixty-one.]
At the end Daviel listed 28 brief case histories, all with good outcomes. Blodi, “Cataract surgery,” in D. Albert & D. Edwards, eds., The History of Ophthalmology, pp. 165-175. See Garrison-Morton.com 5829, citing Daviel’s 1753 report.Book Id: 46460