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BOURSIER DU COUDRAY, Angelique Marguerite le (1714–1794)

Abrégé de l’art accouchements: dans lequel on donne les préceptes nécessaires pour le mettre heureusement en pratique: on y a joint plusieurs observations intéressantes sur des cas singuliers. Ouvrage très-utile aux jeunes Sages-femmes, & généralement à tous les éleves en cet art, qui disirent de s’y rendre habiles; Nouvelles Édition, enriche de figures en taille-douce enluminées ... Le prix est de six livres relié.
Châlons-sur-Marne; chez Bouchard, 1773.

Third edition, the second illustrated with these plates (the first edition, Paris 1759, was unillustrated); the 'Nouvelle édition’ Saintes 1769, was the first with colour-printed plates. The plates in the present edition are the same as in the 1769 edition, but with the page numbers engraved. This is the first book on obstetrics illustrated with colour-printed plates. The plates “Gravé en couleurs par J. Robert” are probably by le Blon’s pupil of that name, active in Paris and Reims between 1739 and 1782. The bones of the pelvis are coloured yellow, the foetus and the midwife’s hands red. It is an effective graphic technique, well suited to le Boursier’s didactic purpose. Such colour coding in anatomical illustration is rare, one of the few examples is Ploos van Amstel in Aanleiding tot de kennis der Anatomie, 1783, where the skeleton is in one colour, muscles and ligaments in another. Madame Angelique Marguerite le Boursier belonged to that coterie of midwives of the eighteenth century who contributed in no small part to the advancement of obstetrics. Occupying a less exalted position than some of her contemporaries, she rendered a service that was unique in the annals of midwifery. By permission of Louis XVI, she went into all the provinces of France, giving instruction gratis to ”unenlightened midwives” in an attempt to reduce infant mortality. Educated in Paris, where she practised as midwife for sixteen years, Mme. le Boursier was well equipped for her mission. As a method of practical instruction she invented a manikin which, judging from her description, was an ingenious mechanism, a life-seized ”femme artificiel”, for demonstrating the various positions of the baby and the technique of delivery. In her little book, a compilation of her written lessons assigned to her student midwives, she set out to explain the principles of midwifery in as few words as possible and in a way that could be readily understood by “less intelligent” women. In the same spirit she points out that the colours used in the plates were intended to remind her pupils of her demonstrations. The plates work very well for the purpose for which they are designed, and this was an inexpensively produced book (though still not cheap, sold bound at 6 livres) intended for an unsophisticated provincial audience.

Collation: Pp x, 185, (5) last page blank. Engraved frontispiece portrait of the author, signed 'Gravé par J. Robert’ and 26 plates numbered Pl. 1.ere and Pl. I-XXV, printed in up to three colours and black, signed 'Peint par P. Chapparre. Gravé en Couleurs par J. Robert.’ Page numbers engraved on the plates. Paper flaw in A3 with loss of letters.

Binding: Contemporary sheep. Flat spine with five gilt floral ornaments, marbled endpapers, red edges.

Provenance: 18th or early 19th century inscription on free endpaper: 'J’apartien à Francoise Boiselle Veuve le Fevrier de Notredame De Carenten Rue-Du chateau’ with the signature 'OC Carenten’ below.

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