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[imprint] an original digital edition: brought to you by Roses.CommunicatingByDesign.com

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E  D  I  T  O  R ’  S    N  O  T  E

   The following article, “The Original of a Polypus Discover’d, by Mr. Giles ...,” is Hans Sloane’s English reissue (published in No. 226 of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London for March 1697) of a French text by Monsieur Giles, renowned Chirurgien-Juré of Saint-Cosme (in the Alsace region of northeastern France), describing a French woman’s nasal polyp which arose in June 1684. Giles treated the woman by first removing the polyp in her right nostril, and then removing an “extraordinary” polyp from behind her uvula. His patient survived for 2 more years, dying at year-end 1686 “of a malignant Fever,” possibly a complication from her recurring cancer.
   Giles’ own relation of the case was first published by the French philosophe and physician Claude Brunet in his Le Progrès de la Médecine, Contenant un Recueil de Aout ce qui s’Observe d’Utile à la Pratique (Paris: L. d’Houry, 1697), from whence Hans Sloane selected it for English translation.
   Although Claude Brunet brought out multiple medical titles documenting the “observations des plus fameux médecins, chirurgiens et anatomistes de l’Europe” (Journal de Médecine, Paris: Horthemels, 1686), he is best known today for his “egoist philosophy,” having long been regarded as “the first to draw solipsist conclusions from Cartesian idealism.” But received wisdom concerning the egoist Brunet is now in question. A recent scholarly reappraisal paints Brunet’s radical dualism — “which assumes two separate worlds, the world of consciousness and the external world” — as not really paving the way to solipsism. (Sébastien Charles, “Skepticism and Solipsism in the Eighteenth Century: Revisiting the Egoist Question,” in Skepticism in the Modern Age: Building on the Work of Richard Popkin ..., ed. by José Raimundo Maia Neto, Gianni Paganini, and John Christian Laursen, 2009, 333 and 335)
   Hans Sloane (1660–1753) served as first secretary of the Royal Society from 1695, and in this capacity, was tasked with editing and publishing the London Society’s Philosophical Transactions. In all, Sloane translated into English and republished three articles from Brunet’s journal, Le Progrès de la Médecine (Paris, 1695–1709), two of which documented the surgical treatment of diseased growths in female patients who had been autopsied by Monsieur Giles.
   I believe that Sloane chose to reissue “The Original of a Polypus Discover’d, by Mr. Giles ...” because, with his post-mortem dissection of the anonymous French Madam’s affected organs, Giles had discovered important new information concerning the origins and spread of a prevalent form of cancer then known as noli me tangere. The most famous Briton to fall victim to noli me tangere was Thomas Hariot, the great mathematician-philosopher and explorer-scientist who surveyed pre-Anglo-Virginia (present-day North Carolina, into Virginia) for Sir Walter Ralegh from June 1585 to June 1586. Although his intimates knew him to be a “most pious cultivator of the Triune God,” Hariot was persecuted by religious and political authorities in England for atheism and necromancy, and his death from cancer was recast by the establishment as a judgment of God for his impiety.
   The findings of Monsieur Giles expanded the treatment options for a deadly cancer which, for centuries, had taunted the medical community to “touch me not.” And indeed, in the concluding paragraphs appended to Giles’ narrative, the editor of Giles’ piece (Sloane and/or Brunet?) cautions against too-hasty or too-universal an adoption of Giles’ masterful surgical technique, noting that “the extirpation of them is not always so successful as it has been in this.”
   In particular, Giles’ new discoveries appeared to substantiate prior fears about uncontrollable haemorrhaging in some patients, and the journal editor was at pains to provide readers with alternatives to radical surgical action. He thus concludes Giles’ relation with a recipe, which has met “with better Success” in some circumstances, for in situ treatment of a polypus using “Caustick Waters,” as recommended by one of the most influential authorities on medicine during the late Renaissance, Johannes Schenck von Grafenberg (1530–1598).
   And he also mentions, with some skepticism, the “pastes” (sometimes applied to the skin, sometimes taken internally) promoted in the almanacs (or ephemerides), the first mass medium of popular advertisement. It has been estimated that, “by the 1660s,” English men and women “were buying an average of 400,000 annual astrological almanacs a year,” and by the end of the 17th century, almanac-makers and astrologers had new-found global reach. John Gadbury began publishing an almanac for the West Indies and Jamaica in the 1670s, while the elder John Seller issued the Barbadoes Almanack and the Jamaica Almanack in 1684, adding a Barmudas Almanack, An Almanack for the Province of Virginia and Maryland, a Carolina Almanack, a Pensilvania Almanack, a New Jarsey Almanack, and A New England Almanack in 1685. No book, other than the bible, reached such a broad and diverse audience as the affordable almanac, readily accessible to everyone from the illiterate peasant to the college-educated peer — scullery-maids, research physicians (such as Sloane), and royals alike.
   Almanacs often combined astrological predictions and medicine, deploying a crude woodcut figure of “The Anatomy of Man’s Body” (sometimes with limbs extended in the familiar pentagon shape), known as the Zodiacal Man, to illustrate “The Moon’s Dominion over the several Parts of Man’s Body, as she passeth the Twelve Zodiacal Constellations.” This medical image was juxtaposed with lists, tables and explanations of the ailments to be expected as the stars exerted a malevolent influence on different parts of the human body at a given time and place.
   Many almanacs also included advertisements for proprietary technologies, medicines and cure-alls offered by a range of unlicensed empirics in the burgeoning medical marketplace. E.g., in 1681, the Widow Pippin, who made state-of-the-art surgical appliances used for treating abdominal hernias, advertised her “trusses” in Apollo Anglicanus, the almanac associated with the medical practitioner and astrologer Richard Saunders (perhaps not coincidentally, that year’s Apollo Anglicanus was printed and published by another woman entrepreneur, Mary Clark, who also profited from the growth in medical consumerism in the latter half of the 17th century).
   As Sloane (and/or Brunet) hints in the final sentence of “The Original of a Polypus Discover’d, by Mr. Giles ...,” the quality of medical advice in the almanacs (much of it recycling boiler-plate copy grounded in Galenical therapeutics and psychology) varied greatly, and satirists such as Thomas Brown found plenty of fodder for their wit in what the anonymous author of Curious Enquiries. Being Six Brief Discourses ... (1688) called “the tricks of astrological quacks.”

as originally published in the
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London
for March 1697, Vol. 19, No. 226, pp. 472–474

The Original of a Polypus discover’d, by Mr. Giles, sworn Surgeon at St. Come, being translated from the Progres de la Medecine of Monsieur Brunet, Art. III. Journal. III.

by  Monsieur Giles and Claude Brunet

(Englished and edited by Hans Sloane, M.D.)

In the Month of June 1684, I was called to see Madam ----- who had a Polypus in the right Nostril; after I had examin’d the marks of it which were to be soft, white, and without pain; I endeavour’d to pull it out, which I did without pain or any bad accident. But after this Extraction, she still felt some trouble in her Nose, and moisture did pass with difficulty from the Nose to the Throat. This engaged me, seeing no more in the Nostrils to look into the Mouth, where I perceived behind the Uvula, a strange body of the bigness of half a Nut, which I judged to be a portion of the same Polypus. In view of this I determin’d to draw it out, being encouraged by the advice of Monsieur Fede, curious both in Physick and Philosophy, and of Monsieur Vary a most expert Surgeon. Having pulled it out in their presence, we found it of an extraordinary shape; the Piece by which I laid hold of it was hard, and of a dark brown; it was fastned by two Branches, which seem’d to have taken their shape in the Nose, being each of them as big as a sweet Almond; their substance was softer, and whiter. Besides these three parts, it had a little stalk something red, of the bigness of a Cherry-stalk: There was not a drop of Blood spilt, and the Patient felt no pain in the Operation; all trouble was removed, and the liquor passed easily.

In all this there is nothing extraordinary for many Practitioners might have met with the like. At the end of two Years the Patient died of a malignant Fever; and forasmuch as sometime before her Death, she complained of a new trouble in her Nose. I earnestly desired leave of the Family to open this Organ, which was granted me; I did it in the presence of the same Persons I have named. Being desirous to find the original of this Polypus, we broke the Bone to omit nothing; after we had broke all, we found nothing in all the Nose, but a little piece of Flesh very soft, which came out of a cleft of the Processus Pterygoides; we follow’d it exactly, which brought us into the Sinus of the upper Jaw; we broke this Bone also, and perceiv’d in this Sinus a ropy and clear humour, in the middle of which there was a body like in figure consistence and colour to a greater one, which we had before taken out; we took notice also of a little red speck, which seem’d to be the root of this Polypus.

The Polypus’s are spungy excrescencies, which according to Authors are form’d upon the Membrane that covers the Noses within, by some alteration made there; some are form’d also in other parts, as in the Cavities of the great Veins. But this Membrane is more dispos’d to the production of them than others, because it is the most spongy of the whole Body, and most full of Blood Vessels.

The Discovery of Mr. Giles, gives us to understand, that it may be produc’d in the Sinus, over which this Membrane is extended, and into which it filters the Snot which is spread over this Organe, and for this reason probably ’tis that ’tis so difficult radically to cure these Polypus’s.

Moreover the extirpation of them is not always so successful as it has been in this; when they appear very red and full of Blood, the Extirpation of them is dangerous, for fear of an Hemorhagie, which is not easily stopt. Therefore some do use Caustick Waters, and that with better Success; some have been recovered, as Schenkius says, by the use of a Remedy prepared thus, Take an ordinary Bucket with 6 or 7 Holes in the bottom, upon which lay the thickness of four Fingers broad in Quick-Lime, upon, which lay as much Ashes of Oak, continue this Stratification till only four Fingers be left a top, which is filled with Water, that passes through all the Beds, to fall into a Vessel under the Bucket, pour this three or four times upon these Beds, then leave it on the Fire till it thicken like a Gelly. This Matter is preserv’d in Bottles well stopt, of which one may take the bigness of a Bean in a little Leaden-Spoon, which must be thrust into the Nose, so that the Matter do not touch any thing but the Carnosity, upon which it must remain near an Hour. After ’tis taken off, they apply Butter to take off the Escharr; this Remedy is repeated ’till the Excrescence be entirely consum’d. The Ephemerides of the Curious Brag of Pastes made of good Sublimate, the Rust of Copper and Leven, q. s. which is used as other Causticks.

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N O T E :  Other titles written and/or edited by Hans Sloane have also been reissued as original Roses​.Communicating​By​Design​.com digital editions, including:


History of a Tumor in the Lower Part of the Belly, Related by Mr. Giles ...,” trans. and ed. by H. Sloane (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, No. 225, February 1697)


A Letter from Mr Jonathan Kay, Chyrurgeon in Newport, Shropshire, Concerning a Strange Cancer, of which His Father Dyed,” ed. by H. Sloane (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, No. 277, January–February 1702)


An Observation Concerning a Very Odd Kind of Dropsy, or Swellings in One of the Ovaries of a Woman,” by H. Sloane (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, No. 252, May 1699)


4-part series, “An Account of a China Cabinet, Filled with Several Instruments, Fruits, &c. Used in China,” by H. Sloane (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Nos. 246, 247, 249 and 250, November–December 1698 and February–March 1699)

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facsimile of late-17th-century title-page

^  Facsimile of title-page (1 of 2) for No. 226 (dated March 1697) of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, the oldest continuous scientific journal.
     Of note, issue No. 226 of the Transactions also included Sloane’s English edition of the 3rd article selected for republication from Claude Brunet’s journal, Le Progrès de la Médecine, Contenant un Recueil de Aout ce qui s’Observe d’Utile à la Pratique (Paris: L. d’Houry, 1697).
     Item IV, pp. 467–471, entitled “Extract of a letter from Jean Marie Lancisi, Prof. Anat. Rom. To Mr. Bourdelot, giving an account of Mr. Malpighi, the circumstances of his death, and what was found remarkable at the opening of his body. Being art. I. of the 3d. journal of Brunets Progres de la medecine,” described the autopsy performed on a valued friend and scientific colleague, F.R.S. Marcello Malpighi (1628–1694), the Italian embryologist known for his microscopic plant studies and studies in human anatomy. Every printed work by Malpighi after 1669 was published by the Royal Society, since Malpighi could not get his scientific treatises past Italian censors. In particular, Robert Hooke and Henry Oldenburg encouraged Malpighi’s scientific studies, solicited his contributions, furnished him with technical literature, and oversaw his publications (e.g., Malpighi’s history of the silkworm) “in splendid style.”
     As reported here, Malpighi, who “had frequent Sicknesses,” was bothered by “sharp Vomiting” and night sweats, as well as heart disease and kidney stones, but it was a stroke which killed him. “And because this most Learned Man thought he should end his days by an Apoplexy, which made him often say to his Friends laughing, that he was not much concerned for Death, because he knew, that when it came on him it should find him in his Clothes. He therefore forbad, by his Will, his Friends to open his Body till thirty Hours after his Death, for he knew well enough, that some, who seem’d dead on a sudden, have reviv’d some hours after.  ¶  But how vain are the hopes of Men! And how do they deceive themselves in their designs? Would to God this Man to whom the Commonwealth of Physick is so much indebted, had revived, and we had not reason to lament so suddain a death.” (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, No. 226, March 1697, 469)

facsimile of late-17th-century title-page (continued)

^  Facsimile of title-page (2 of 2) for No. 226 (dated March 1697) of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, the oldest continuous scientific journal.
    Issue No. 226 of the Philosophical Transactions was edited and published by Hans Sloane, who positioned “The Original of a Polypus Discover’d, by Mr. Giles ...” as Item V (there were VIII articles total in this issue of the journal).

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noli me tangere — In English, touch me not. This named “Any of various conditions causing persistent, spreading ulceration of the skin and underlying tissue, esp. of the face; an instance or case of such a condition. Also fig. Now hist.  ¶  Many cases of noli-me-tangere were probably caused by basal cell carcinoma (rodent ulcer) or squamous cell carcinoma.” (Oxford English Dictionary::

a “most pious cultivator of the Triune God” — This phrase was inscribed on the memorial for Hariot, contributed by Henry Percy, 9th earl of Northumberland. Hariot’s body was interred in London’s St. Christopher’s Church (a site later taken over by the Bank of England), where a monument was erected for Hariot with a Latin inscription which translates: “Stop traveller, tread lightly / just here lies what was mortal / of the celebrated man / Thomas Hariot. / He was that most learned Harriot / of Syon near the river Thames, / By birth and education / an Oxonian. / He was versed in all sciences. / He excelled in all things. / Mathematics, Philosophy, Theology, / The most studious explorer of Truth / The most pious cultivator of the Triune God. / A sexagenarian or thereabouts, / he bid farewell to mortality; not to life, In the year of our Lord, 1621, on the 2d July.” (qtd. in Alexander Brown, The Genesis of the United States, 2 vols., 1890, 2.910–11) ::

his death from cancer was recast by the establishment — F.R.S. John Aubrey (1626–1697) captured the tone of the times quite well, locating Hariot at the nexus of a new and troubling politics of cancer: “The bishop of Sarum (Seth Ward) told me that one Mr. Haggar (a countryman of his), a gentleman and good mathematician, was well acquainted with Mr. Thomas Hariot, and was wont to say, that he did not like (or valued not) the old storie of the Creation of the World. He could not beleeve the old position; he would say ex nihilo nihil fit [nothing comes of nothing]. But sayd Mr. Haggar, a nihilum killed him at last: for in the top of his nose came a little red speck (exceeding small), which grew bigger and bigger, and at last killed him. I suppose it was that which the chirurgians call a noli me tangere [touch me not].... [Hariot] made a philosophicall theologie, wherin he cast-off the Old Testament, and then the New one would (consequently) have no foundation. He was a Deist. His doctrine he taught to Sir Walter Raleigh, Henry, earle of Northumberland, and some others. The divines of those times look’t on his manner of death as a judgement upon him for nullifying the Scripture.” (J. Aubrey, Brief Lives, ed. A. Clark, 2 vols., 1898, 1.286–7) ::

Sloane and/or Brunet? — I have not seen the original French printing of Giles’ relation in Le Progrès de la Médecine, Contenant un Recueil de Aout ce qui s’Observe d’Utile à la Pratique (Paris: L. d’Houry, 1697), and thus, don’t know if the 2-paragraph editorial comment which concludes “The Original of a Polypus Discover’d, by Mr. Giles ...” was new with Sloane, or is a translation from the French of Claude Brunet. ::

a Polypus in the right Nostril — I.e., a polyp.
  As used in medicine, a polypus originally meant “a fleshy growth within the nasal passages. In later use: a mass arising from an epithelial (esp. mucosal) surface, having either a stalk or a broad base, and of inflammatory, hyperplastic, hamartomatous, or neoplastic origin.” (Oxford English Dictionary::

the Processus Pterygoides — I.e., pterygoid process, “designating a long process which descends from the inferior surface of the sphenoid bone at the junction of its body and greater wing on each side, and which consists of two thin laminae or plates joined anteriorly.” (Oxford English Dictionary::

Caustick Waters — Solutions which burn and destroy living tissue when brought in contact with it. Quicklime was known to be a powerful caustic. Other common caustics include caustic alkali (a name given to the hydrates of potassium and sodium, called caustic potash [KHO] and caustic soda [NaHO] respectively) and caustic volatile alkali or caustic ammonia (ammonia as a gas or in solution). ::

as Schenkius says — I.e., John Andreas Schenckius of Graffenberg, Doctor of Physick, aka Johannes Schenck von Grafenberg (1530–1598). Schenck studied at Tübingen, and was later a physician to the city of Freiburg im Breisgau.
  Schenck’s 1584 treatise, Observationes Medicae de Capite Humano, is considered a pioneering work in neurolinguistics, and his early text of pathology, Observationum Medicarum Rariorum, Libri VII (1586–95), set new standards for the genre with its clarity of author reference and indexing, and the range of pathological discovery quoted. ::

Quick-Lime — Quicklime is lime which has not yet been slaked; aka calcium oxide, CaO. (Oxford English Dictionary::

the Carnosity — “A morbid fleshy growth, a caruncle.” (Oxford English Dictionary::

the Escharr — Refers to “A brown or black dry slough, resulting from the destruction of a living part, either by gangrene, by burn, or by caustics.” It was common surgical practice to “cause the eschare to fal awaye” after a malignity “is taken awaye” using caustics. (Oxford English Dictionary::

Sublimate — Short for sublimate of mercury. “Mercuric chloride, a toxic crystalline powder formerly used medicinally, esp. as an antiseptic or disinfectant. Also fig., and in extended use: poison. Now chiefly hist.  ¶  Also called corrosive sublimate, mercury sublimate.” (Oxford English Dictionary::

q. s. — Abbreviation for quantum sufficit (in English, “as much as suffices”), meaning that amount which is sufficient or appropriate. ::