Jason Clarke Antiques

Eighteenth Century Paris School of Medicine Surgeons Trepanning or Trephine Set


For sale, an Eighteenth Century Paris School of Medicine Surgeon’s Trepanning Set or Trephine Set

Comprised of a set of three trephine heads and an arrowhead perforator, all fitting into an ebony handled drillstock. The trephine heads also contain centre pins which may be removed with the use of the included key and a further key is provided for use in combination with the arrowhead perforator. In addition, there are a set of three elevators, three ebony handled lenticulars and a brush.

The set is complete with its tooled black leather case with brass latches and engraved lid cartouche with central handle. The interior is hessian lined with a silk covering. The few of these in existence normally have their silk lining removed probably due to the fragility and wear that the silk encounters over the years. Despite its wear, it is a feature seldom seen.    

The engraving to the brass lid handle states: Ate Prestat de Caylus – 1821 – Le Medicine de Paris essentially translated to Paris Doctor, Auguste Prestat of Caylus and the date 1821.

Small amounts of detail can be gleaned about the owner in addition to his obvious birthplace, the town of Caylus in the French Commune of Tarn et Garonne in Southern France. The date is poignant since he is known to have published in that year, a University Thesis entitled “Essai Sur Les Vers Qu’on Recontre Le Plus Communement Dans Les Intestins de L’Homme” again translated as, “Essay on the worms most commonly found in the intestines of Men”.

This thesis was presented to the Faculty of Medicine at The Sorbonne University Paris (then titled The University of Paris) on the 31st of March 1821 in order to obtain his degree as a doctor of medicine. Graduation from the Paris School of Medicine was, and remains undoubtedly a most prestigious achievement but during the period following the Napoleonic revolution, the practice of medicine was undergoing rapid and long-term change as a result of the developments hard won by numerous years of war the country had experienced, this modern age of observational medicine was the point in which Auguste Prestat began his career and can be seen to be reflected in his thesis despite its rather gruesome subject matter.

The preface to his work shares some interesting notes of gratitude to those that assisted him during his studies.


Doctor of Medicine and Surgery, former Medicine and Chief Surgeon of the Armies of the Republic etc etc.

Et Gardes – Docteur en Medicine

You who have guided my first steps in the study of medicine, which now lead them into a more difficult career, allow me to dedicate this academic tribute to you. I obey the impulses of my heart which commands me to offer it to you as a weak pledge, but assures me of my respect for your virtues, of my admiration for your talents, of my gratitude for the friendship with which you honour me, and for the goodness you never cease to have for me.

A Mon Pere et a Ma Mere

In this day so desired by you and by me, that it would be sweet for me to be able to convey all that I feel for you. Forgive my helplessness, my best friends! You are not unaware of how dear you are to me. I offer you today this first fruit of my work; Receive it as a small testimony of my love, respect and gratitude.

The entire thesis is available for reading (in French) for free on Google Books.

It should be noted that the date on the trephine set does not seem to chime with the style of manufacture of the instruments. Other extant examples are generally considered to be of mid to late Eighteenth century manufacture and the style and decoration on the instruments would also bear out that attribution. It is therefore likely that this set may have been a gift to Doctor Prestat upon his graduation in 1821 and would be in accordance with the date of his thesis.

An interesting and quite scarce early French medical set with some interesting history worthy of further research.

Circa 1770  

Please also note that there is one trephine head missing from this set.

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