PECQUET, Jean (1622-1674). Experimenta nova anatomica, quibus incognitum hactenus chyli receptaculum, & ab eo per thoracem in ramos usque subclavios vasa lactea deteguntur.... Dissertatio anatomica de circulatione sanguinis, et chyli motu. Paris: Sebastian and Gabriel Cramoisy, 1651.
4o (190 x 143 mm). One full-page engraving of the chylus vessels in the dissected carcass of a dog, 5 small text engravings, printer's woodcut device on title, woodcut initials and headpiece ornament. (Filled wormhole to lower margin of first 6 leaves, affecting a letter of imprint, touched up in ink facsimile, and a signature.) Contemporary limp vellum (lacking four leather ties).
Provenance: Presentation inscription from the author to an unidentified recipient, dated July 1660, on front free endpaper.
FIRST EDITION, PRESENTATION COPY. Pecquet is generally credited with the discovery of the thoracic duct, the major vessel of the lymphatic system, although nearly simultaneous discoveries were made independently by both Thomas Bartholin in Denmark and Olof Rudbeck in Sweden (see lot 760). All three scientists worked in a world that had been revolutionized by Harvey's discovery of the circulation of the blood, a discovery still rejected by part of the medical establishment. Pecquet, a native of Dieppe, studied Harvey's theory at the Jardin du Roi, where a small group of Harveyites had been exiled from the conservative Facult de Mdecine. Pecquet pursued Aselli's earlier research into the function of the lacteal vessels in animals. Through observation of the digestive system in dogs, he succeeded in tracing the lacteals to the cisterna chylii, or chyle reservoir, which had been sought since Aselli's discoveries, thus refuting the latter's theory that the lacteals ended in the liver, and correctly described the thoracic duct at the union of the jugular and subclavian veins. His work was both made possible by and corroborated Harvey's theories. "Pecquet's discovery that the chyle flowed into the vena cava and thence to the heart, taken together with the Harveaian circulation, was taken to have completely destroyed the food-chyle-blood system centred around a blood-making liver that was fundamental to Galenic physiology" (The Western medical tradition, p. 347).
Also included are Pecquet's dissertation on the circulation of the blood, and supporting letters from the Parisian physicians Jacques Mentel and Pierre de Mercenne, and the astronomer and physicist Adrien Auzout.
Garrison-Morton 1095; Grolier Medicine 28A (this copy exhibited); Heirs of Hippocrates 543; NLM/Krivatsy 8757; Waller 7278; Norman 1676.