Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Integer vel eros volutpat, consequat diam ac, eleifend dolor. Mauris risus ante, tempus in interdum elementum, consectetur id odio. Praesent lorem dolor, sollicitudin sed metus at, laoreet vestibulum dolor.

SCHÄFFER, Jacob Christian (1718-1790)

Die eingebildeten Würmer in Zähnen. Nebst dem vermeyntlichen Hülfsmittel wider dieselben.
Regensburg, gedruckt bey den Gebrüdern Zunkle, 1757.

First edition. – Of all opinions about the origin of toothache, perhaps the oldest belief, one that has spread all over the earth and has survived to the present day is the Legend of the Tooth Worm. The earliest recorded reference describing ’tooth worms’ as a cause of dental decay dates from an Assyrian cuneiform clay tablet, and has since spread all over the world and survived to the present day among primitive peoples. The pain was thought to be produced by the worm gnawing at the tooth. A therapy applied in order to erudicate the tooth worm was fumigation of the seeds of henbane – a somewhat dangerous remedy practiced by doctors well into the end of the eighteenth century. Henbane seeds and capsules imbedded in wax balls were heated over coal or charcoal in an earthen pot, until they produced fumes. The inhalation of the narcotic smoke produced an excessive salivation; the saliva dropped into a water dish placed below the pot. With the saliva followed also the supposed tooth worms. The credit for having put an end of this ridiculous theory of dental worms belongs to Jacob Christian Schäffer, a Protestant preacher from Regensburg, the author of some of the finest illustrated books on insects and mushrooms in Germany and of the finest book ever published on the manufacture of paper, as well as numerous smaller treatises on various subjects incl. his invention of a washing-machine. Schäffer proved through a series of experiments that the supposed tooth worms were nothing else than henbane seeds. His book is illustrated by a plate with 12 handcoloured figures of which Figs. I-XI are showing the supposed worms, with single and double tails, or actually seed buds of the henbane driven out by heat, in natural size, and magnified. Fig. XII is showing the earthen pot and the iron passing through the two side openings, on which the wax balls (containing henbane seeds) are laid inside the pot; we can see the smoke arising through the opening in the top, which was directed into the mouth; the pot is placed in a bowl of water into which the supposed worms fall and in which they are found after the cure.

Collation: Pp (4), 42, (2). With one hand-coloured engraved plate with 12 figures.

Binding: Contemporary brown paste-paper boards, red sprinkled edges.

Provenance: Count Rudolph of Abensperg und Traun with his monogram stamp with crown on title-page.

References: Crowley 175; Nissen ZBI 3640; Hoffmann-Axthelm. 2nd ed.(1985) PP 272-74; Guerini, pp 306-09 (with plate and explanation of all the 12 figures); Weinberger, I, pp 22-25; Weinberger Dental Bibliography p. 207; Waller 10705; not in Blake. Waller 10705.

+ Read more