Deutsches Medizinhistorisches Museum


This bloodletting lancet has an elaborately crafted coral handle with two putti romping about above a rocaille decorative element. In connection with the red coral, the colour of which was associated with the "signature" of blood, this cheerful scene was presumably meant to have a positive effect on the course of the procedure. Even though bloodletting was considered a beginner's operation because of its everyday nature in which the barber apprentices could practise their skills, it still had its pitfalls. This view was also held by Lorenz Heister, author of an influential textbook on surgery published in Nuremberg in 1719:

Heister delared that, "bloodletting" was correctly "found to be one of the best remedies available in the whole of the medical profession", but that the difficulties involved were often underestimated. In many cases, it was very easy to perform, but there was always the danger of injuring adjacent structures such as nerves, tendons or arteries through an unfortunately placed incision. Such accidents had already "happened to the very best and most skilful masters" – while a beginner could "undeservedly come into bad credit and reputation". Therefore, a surgeon should get used not to take bloodletting lightly, but rather to "perform it with good and appropriate attention".


Marion Maria Ruisinger