Nose Jobs

As promised, a classic illustration from Gaspare Tagiacozzi's De curtorum chirurgia per insitionem (1597, book 2). Tagliocozzi shows autografting--grafts using the patient's own skin. In addition to the ravages of syphilis, nose jobs were needed to repair injuries in battle, but also after duels.

The question that I always get is: Did they work? The problem is that we do not have a lot a data on survival rates after such surgeries. We have a good number of case histories, but often there is more information about the specifics of the surgery--rather than the post-op outcomes.

I can say that it's important to remember that antisepsis and anesthesia were 19th-century discoveries. This means that surgery had an even more complex set of potential complications than it does today. Like most of the early-modern folks, I would certainly not line up to get a nose job or breast enhancement surgery just for the heck of it. Come to think of it...I wouldn't do that now anyway!

For more on all of this, I recommend Sander Gilman's excellent Making the Body Beautiful: A Cultural History of Aesthetic Surgery. Gilman is on the faculty at Emory and a top cultural historian.

Image courtesy of: Lilly Library, Medical Collections.

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