Nosology, from νόσος (nosos) for “disease” and -λογία (-logia) for “study of-” is the science of how we classify a disease and come to a better understanding of it. This term is mostly applied to the field of medicine duringthe pre-Civil war years, and was a method in which physicians tried to come to a better understanind of how we relate disease to the body and environment, in turn relating to how the care of a disease was designed. An important part of understanding diseases during the colonial and post-colonial years was through these studies of disease relationships. The earliest nosologies for disease did little to allow them to be separated well enough to enable better cures to be developed in a fairly rapid manner.
As the understanding of disease patterns and causes progressed, and the nosologies changed, the causes for disease came to be better understood, and by the 1850s, nosology was pretty much replaced by interpretations of disease based on the variety of scientific ways in which disease and its manifestations could be classified, be they physical or somatic, versus psychological in nature.
The most basic question that was asked in order to classify a disease is still being asked–is it acute or chronic? In modern database systems for health care, the largest grouping of medical conditions is usually acute versus chronic, and overall medical practices and activities preventive versus palliative or remedial. These early classification systems define disease relationships based on a number of features, some of which are shared, and on occasion some of which are especially unique for the methodology being developed.
The nosologies reviewed for this section are all pre-1820, and represent how scientists and physicians interpreted diseases as a part of the natural life experience. Some physicians and scientists, especially the earliest ones, focused on the body for the most part, its anatomical parts, and how these were influenced within the individual (“Local”) versus by the environmental around them (with no term for this class of features specifically invented by these authors). Later nosologists invented several very unique methods of classifying diseases, each with characteristics predefined and applied by their particular profession. During the late colonial years, the famous plant and animal taxonomist Karl von Linne produced his version of the disease and medical taxonomy. During the Lamarckian period in science history, a well known naturalist Erasmus Darwin (the grandfather of Charles) produced his version in 1796, in which he went through exceptional attempts to subdivide the conditions a person might experience due to mental-, emotional, biological, psychological, behavioral or psychiatric experiences. In one of the more later versions of these pre-1820 rendering of disease nosology, the details of the organ systems and their physiology and varying physiological traits begin to pay a role in defining their existence.
Still, the most important component of old nosological systems pertains to the psychology of disease and health. The scientists who make the most use of nosological investigations are the psychologists and psychiatrists, who like the physicians of the 1700s often have problems and differences in opinions when it comes to classifying the diseases they treat, for use of these nosologies to better define their treatments. Modern nosology is a topic still heavily researched by the mental health practitioners, and is why this method of classifying diseases has to be reviewed as a part of researching pre-1850 American medicine. A unique philosophy is used to draw up the nosological relationships between diseases. This means that nosology can in turn provide us with insights into how a doctor was thinking at a particular point in time. This in turn tells us why he treated an individual the way that he did, and sometimes even why that method of treatment became a failure or a success.
One of the keys to understanding medicine and how it was practiced between 1750 and 1825 is understanding the nosology for the time. A single nosological system will not conclusively tell us how an individual was philosophizing and practicing as a medical doctor, but it does provide for us a starting point with which to answer several important research questions. These questions are:
- What is the cultural basis for the philosophy this doctor’s practice adheres to?
- Was this doctor in tune with his/her times and the scientific discovery?
- Was this doctor a self-trained individual read in older books bearing older philosophies?
- Was this doctor relying upon his/her own philosophy not expressed by the published colleagues for the time?
These nosologies provide us with insights into how the physicians were thinking at the time about diseases. The subdefinitions for psychological or non-physical diseases in particular are important to note since there are numerous theories out there about how a person practicing some form of medicine might interpret such events as somnambulism (sleep walking), strange dreams, hyperreligiosity, and even some of the oldest forms of non-somatic states or conditions like seizures, hysteria, mania, and the ‘a-mock’ experience. These nosologies are important to view, translate, interpret and finally try to come to a better understanding of what it is they tell us about physicians’ and scientists’ attitudes for the times pertaining to medicine, the inner workings of the human body, and how a particular disease become defined and related to other such medical conditions.
The following scientists are reviewed (in chronological order):
Franciscus Boisier du Sauvages
Carl von Linne (Linnaeus)
Benedict Christian Vogel (1745-1825, developed his systems in or around 1764)
The following is from Christie’s Auction site, http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/LotDetailsPrintable.aspx?intObjectID=228378
TREW, CHRISTOPH JAKOB and BENEDICT CHRISTIAN VOGEL. Plantae Selectae [- Supplementum Plantarum Selectarum] quarum imagines ad exemplaria naturalia Londini in hortis curiosorum nutrita manu artificiosa doctaque pinxit Georgius Dionysius Ehret Germanus occasione haud vulgari collegit nominibus propriis notisque subinde illustravit et publico usui dicavit D. Christophorus Jacobus Trew medicus norimbergensis in aes incidit et vivis coloribus repraesentavit Joannes Jacobus Haid pictor et chalcographus Augustanus. Decuria I [-X], [Nuremberg:] 1750-1773; Supplement [Decuriae 1 and 2], [Augsburg:] 1790 [-1792].
2 vols., large folio, of text and plates 1-50 (plates 51-120, the portraits, and supplement title all apart), 530 x 370 mm., approx. contemporary boards UNCUT with open backs, the boards secured by vellum strips (plates 51-120 removed from a binding), together in a modern green half morocco gilt case, bindings worn and some slight fraying to many fore-edges throughout, lower margins of portraits of Trew and Vogel dampstained, outer margins of plates 30, 65 and 80 dampstained.
FIRST EDITION. Contents: 10 engraved titles for decuria I-X lettered in red, black and gold, 4 mezzotint portraits of Trew by Haid, Ehret by Haid after Heckell, Haid after A. Graff by J.E. Haid and Vogel after Hessell by J.E. Haid, (plates 1-100) and J. Elias Haid (plates 101-120), each with the first word of the caption heightened in gold.
A REMARKABLE UNCUT COPY OF ONE OF THE GREATEST EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY BOTANICAL COLOR-PLATE BOOKS, with the exceedingly scarce supplement containing a further twenty plates published in 1790-1792. The genesis of this work began as early as 1742 when Trew wrote to Christian Thran in Carlsruhe: “Every year I receive some beautifully painted exotic plants [by Ehret] and have already more than one hundred of them, which with other pieces executed by local artists, should later on, Deo volante, constitute an appendicem to Weinmann’s publication but will, I hope, find a better reception than his.” In 1748 agreement was reached that John Jacob Haid from Augsburg should provide the engravings, and the first part appeared in 1750. Georg Dionysius Ehret (1708-1770) worked in London during the period of the book’s production, painting recently introduced exotics in the Chelsea Physic Garden and becoming a teacher of plant drawing and botany to the aristocracy. He published one illustrated botanical book himself, the elusive Plantae et papiliones rariores (see lot 43 in the present catalogue). Trew died before the text of the the last three decuriae was written and before the illustrations of Decuriae IX and X were printed. The work was completed by Benedict Christian Vogel (1745-1825), Professor of Botany at the University of Altdorf, who was also the author of Supplementum Plantarum Selectarum. “In a letter in Latin to Trew Linnaeus expresses his opinion: ‘The miracles of our century in the natural sciences are your work of Ehret’s plants, Edwards’ work of birds and Roesel’s of insects, nothing equal was seen in the past and will be in the future’” (Calman). “Ehret achieves realism, majesty, ineffable color, all in one breathtaking book” (Hunt).
Gerta Calman, Georg Ehret, Flower Painter Extraordinary (1977), p. 97; Dunthorne 309; Great Flower Books, p. 78; Hunt 539; Nissen BBI 1997; Pritzel 9499; Stafleu & Cowan TL2 15.131.
Johannes Baptiste Michael von Sagar (1732-1813)
Sir Alexander Crichton (1763-1856)
John Mason Good
Author of A synoptical Table of Diseases, exhibiting their Arrangement in Classes, Orders, Genera, and Species, designed for the Use of Students (London: h.p., 1805).—
Research notes: with time I will add the definitions for some of the harder groupings to understand and terminology in need of deciphering and definition.