‘Let the surgeon be bold in all sure things and fearful in dangerous things; let him avoid all faulty treatments and practices. He ought to be gracious to the sick, considerate to his associates, cautious in his prognostications. Let him be modest, dignified, gentle, pitiful and merciful’.
Guy de Chauliac, Chirurgica Magna (1363).
Guy de Chauliac (c. 1300-68) is probably the best known surgeon of the medieval period. Worth certainly thought highly of him for he not only owned a 1537 Lyon edition of his Chirurgica Magna, a 1546 Venetian edition, and a much later French translation, La grande chirurgie de maistre Guy de Chauliac (Paris, 1683), but also a book about him, written in 1696. The dates of the latter two books demonstrate the continuing popularity of De Chauliac’s work (at least in France), well into the later seventeenth century. Thévenet points to the many Latin editions of De Chauliac: Venice: in 1490, 1497, 1498, 1499, 1513, 1519 and 1546; Lyon in 1537, 1559, 1572 and 1585. And, of course, either the whole text of the Chirurgica Magna or abridged versions were also translated into the vernacular (being particularly popular in French).
Ars chirurgica Guidonis Cauliaci … (Venice, 1546), fol. 27 recto.
De Chauliac had studied medicine at Toulouse and Montpellier, before moving to Bologna to study anatomy. On his return to France he continued his studies, this time at Paris (which, as Watters notes, was a leading centre for surgery). Although he arrived there too late to be a student of Guido Lanfranchi (1250-1306) and Henri de Mondeville (1260-1320) it is likely that he was influenced by their treatises – certainly he cites their works on a number of occasions. Having completed his medical studies in 1325 at the University of Montpellier he became a cleric and was subsequently appointed physician to three popes based at Avignon: Pope Clement VI (1342-1352), Pope Innocent VI (1352-62) and Pope Urban V (1362-70).
Ars chirurgica Guidonis Cauliaci … (Venice, 1546), fol. 27 verso.
Guy was certainly heavily influenced by the surgical treatise of Al-Zahrawi and, like the Cordoban surgeon, included illustrations of surgical instruments in his own work. Also in line with Al-Zahrawi, De Chauliac paid a lot of attention to earlier tracts on surgery and was keen to draw attention to ancient sources such as Hippocrates and Galen, as well as Arabic sources such as Avicenna (c. 980-1037), and Rhazes (854–925). This did not mean that he followed them slavishly – he also naturally included his own observations. As he said himself: ‘First he should be learned; second, he should be expert; third, he must be ingenious; and fourth, he should be able to adapt himself’.
Ars chirurgica Guidonis Cauliaci … (Venice, 1546), fol. 251 verso.
Furlong, Gilian, ‘The standard medieval manual of surgery’, in Gillian Furlong (ed.), Treasures from UCL (London, 2015), pp 70-1.
Ogden, Margaret (ed.), The Cyrurgie of Guy de Chauliac (Oxford, 1971).
Thevenet, André, ‘Guy de Chauliac. Père de la chirurgie’, Academie des Sciences et Lettres de Montpellier, vol. 28 (1998), 207-22.
Watters, David, ‘Guy de Chauliac: Pre-eminent surgeon of the Middle Ages’, Australia and New Zealand Journal of Surgery, vol. 83 (2013), 730-34.
Text: Dr Elizabethanne Boran, Librarian of the Edward Worth Library, Dublin.
 Abeille, Scipion, Le parfait chirurgien d’armée (Paris, 1696).
 Thevenet, André, ‘Guy de Chauliac. Père de la chirurgie’, Academie des Sciences et Lettres de Montpellier, vol. 28 (1998), 222.
 Watters, David, ‘Guy de Chauliac: Pre-eminent surgeon of the Middle Ages’, Australia and New Zealand Journal of Surgery, vol. 83 (2013), 732.
 Murphy, G.H., ‘The surgery of Guy de Chauliac’, Canadian Medical Association Journal, vol. 65 (1951), 71.