A Virtual Cabinet of Beautiful and Bizarre Medical Antiques

Dr. Laurie Slater's Phisick.com was recently given an overhaul, and the results are stunning. The archive is a gorgeous repository of antique medical, surgical and dental instruments filled with pictures and insights into their use. Physick, which is a 16th century term for medicine, started with only a handful of objects used for teaching, but has now expanded to over a thousand different items.

Slater has collected the objects from far and wide, including garage sales, bric-a-brac stalls, dealers, auction houses and antique fairs around the world. Most pieces originated in the UK and Europe, but some items come as far away as Asia and Australia. Slater has organized all items by category, each with multiple photographs and detailed descriptions.


Here's a sampling of what can be found at the archive (all captions and images via Phisick.com):

French Nasal Rectificateur

An unusual early 20th century French nasal ‘Rectificateur' which would have been applied after nasal fracture or facial injury. The apparatus was placed over the nose and held secure with straps around the back of the head. The idea was that by adjusting the screws on the nose piece, pressure could be applied to recreate symmetry after injuries which might have deviated the nasal septum. Quite likely completely useless, but a fascinating glimpse into historical medical practice. It comes with the original box which is marked "Rectificateur ‘Nice Nose' Brevete"!



A model used as a teaching aid for students and eye surgeons. The secret is in their eyes according to Campanella's film and this is the case here. The ophthalmophantome is a somewhat mesmerising model on which student doctors could try their hand at eye surgery. Not human, but pig eyes were inserted in the sockets and secured by means of adjustable clamps whilst the aspiring surgeons tried out their skills. The aluminium face (once black) remains deadpan throughout.


Meadows Vaginal Speculum

A rare 19th century silver plated 4 blade vaginal speculum made by Meadows in 1869. It works on a similar principle to the Graves speculum but the two small extra blades take their leverage from the main blades. A retaining screw fixes the blades in an open position. It is marked Maw Son and Thompson who were in business from 1870-1901


19th Century French Cupping Set

An attractive late 19th century cupping set with four cups, a suction pump, connectors with residual rubber tubing and scarificator in a mahogany box. The centrally placed cup is a breast cup which was a common feature in French cupping sets and which gave them a dual function as breast pumps. The scarificator is a round French 8 bladed example in perfect working condition. There is no makers mark on the instruments but this set is typical of the style of Charriere who would almost certainly have been the maker. The red leather lined lid of the box shows faint lettering and the top line is difficult to make out but the second line reads "Buenos Aires" which was where the set would have been retailed.


English Female Porcelain Urinal

An early 19th century female urinal with a decorative transfer design. This is the English equivalent to the French bordalou and would have been used in the bed chamber or as portable relief during travel or perhaps as was supposed the case in Paris even during long sermons at church.


Vecabe Dental Model Jaw and Teeth

A well fashioned French antique dental model by Vecabé. The full set of teeth are made from enamel and would have been painstakingly crafted and fired individually. Each one is secured to the mandible with brass pin and can be removed. They fit together perfectly to form an anatomically correct bite. The heavy metal block opens through 180 degrees to allow detailed inspection. On the upper surface is engraved "Vecabé Brevet D'invention 675996 SGDG Modèle D'Examen Destiné a L'Art Dentaire Brevets Dans Touts Les Pays Civilisés 12032″. Dates to the 1920′s.


French 19th Century Syringe Set

An fine antique sterling silver syringe. Albert S. Aloe was born in Scotland in 1842 and died in St. Louis, Missouri in 1893, the A. S. Aloe Company was founded around 1860. The syringe comes with its original lined case (signed) and accompaniments. These include a silver blunt ending hollow cannula for injection or aspiration and a long needle with a long silver sheath on a screw thread which in the unscrewed position protects the sharp end of the needle. This instrument was used for the injection of haemorrhoids.


Via Medgadget where you can also read an interview with Dr. Laurie Slater.

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