Brown University Library Acquires Rare Book in Honor of President Paxson

The title page from Francis Glisson's "De Rachitide sive Morbo Puerili, qui volgo The Rickets"

The title page from Francis Glisson’s “De Rachitide sive Morbo Puerili, qui volgo The Rickets”

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University Library has purchased a copy of the first edition of Francis Glisson’s De Rachitide sive Morbo Puerili, qui volgo The Rickets in honor of Christina Hull Paxson, Brown University’s nineteenth president.

The volume was acquired not only because of its rarity but also because of its subject matter concerning childhood disease.  During her career, President Paxson’s research interests have increasingly focused on the relationship of economic factors to the health and welfare of individuals, particularly children.  From 2004 to 2012 she was the senior editor of The Future of Children.

Glisson’s book is the first full account of the childhood disease rickets and is one of the very first works on pediatric medicine to be published in England.  Glisson was for many years a professor of medicine at Cambridge University, and later became one of the first members of the Royal Society.  In 1645 he was assigned to a committee to study rickets which at the time was considered a new disease.  His chief collaborators were George Bate and Ahasuerus Regemorter, whose names appear on the title-page.  But in fact, this volume, as it was finally printed, is almost entirely Glisson’s own work (and his first book).

Glisson included a detailed study of the biomechanics of deformed bones and joints, and the pathologic anatomy of scoliosis.  He used braces, splints, and shoes to straighten bowlegs and curved spines, and advocated exercise and massage to overcome muscular weakness.  In attempting to correct the deformities of rickets, Glisson’s work did much to advance the treatment of distortions, in general, and ultimately to improve the health and welfare of children stricken with such disabilities.

Glisson’s text is a welcome addition to the History of Science Collections at Brown University, among the largest collections of their kind, including manuscripts, books, and printed materials that document seminal scientific and mathematical advances as well as the social application of scientific technology over the course of centuries. The collections are particularly strong in other early works of medical history, including Andreas Vesalius’ De Humani Corporus Fabrica (Basel, 1543), and Lazare Rivière’s Praxis Medica (Hague, 1651) and Obvservationum Medicarum (Leyden, 1659) which reflect initial attempts to develop a comprehensive understanding of disease and anatomy.

Brown University Library is home to more than 6.8 million print items, plus a multitude of electronic resources and expanding digital archives serving the teaching, research, and learning needs of Brown students and faculty, as well as scholars from around the country and the world.

Contact: Daniel O’Mahony