Henry of Mondeville

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Henry of Mondeville

(b. Mondeville, near Caen, or Emondeville, Manche, France, ca. 1260 [?]; d. Paris, France, ca. 1320)

surgery, medicine.

Henry of Mondeville (or Henricus de Mondeville, Amondavilla, Armandaville, Hermondavilla, Mondavilla, or Mandeville) studied medicine and surgery at Montpellier, Paris, and Bologna; he is regarded as a key link between Italian and French surgery and anatomy. In 1301 he served as surgeon in the armies of Philip the Fair; and for the rest of his life he served Philip, Philip’s brother Charles of Valois, or Louis X and taught surgery and anatomy. In 1304 he lectured on anatomy at Montpellier, where Guy de Chauliac reported he “demonstrated” with thirteen illustrations. In 1306 he was lecturing in Paris.

Although he traveled on the king’s orders or other business to various parts of France and England, Henry apparently received little income from his contacts with royalty. He complained that he had a difficult time in writing his book on surgery because of the great crowds of patients and students he had to face. Again he apparently did not benefit financially from his popularity. He began writing his book in 1306 but never completed it, possibly because from 1316 he was in ill health, probably with tuberculosis. Henry was apparently a cleric who had studied theology and philosophy; he never married, but he also never had a prebend.

His reputation is derived from Cynurgia, which was not printed until the nineteenth century. His chief biographer, E. Nicaise, found some eighteen manuscript copies of Henry’s Cyrurgia or parts of it, and at least two more have since been found. Most include only parts of his works. He originally planned to complete his Cyrurgia in five parts: (1) anatomy, (2) general and particular treatment of wounds, (3) special surgical pathology, (4) fractures and luxations, and (5) antidotary. The third treatise was only partially completed, the fourth was never written, and some nine of ten projected chapters were finished in the last part. His style is brief, clear, and enlightened. Although he respected authority and cited some fiftynine different authors some 1,308 times, he did not always agree with them. Galen, who led the list with 431 citations, was regarded by Henry as neither perfect nor the final authority.

The most significant part of Henry’s writing is in his second treatise on surgery, in which he followed Hugh of Lucca and Theodoric Borgognoni of Lucca in opposing deliberate efforts to make wounds suppurate. He believed that wounds should be cleaned without probing, treated without irritant dressings, and closed so that they might heal promptly. He urged surgeons to keep their instruments clean, devised improved needles and thread holders, invented an instrument to extract arrows, and removed pieces of iron from the flesh with a magnet. The most controversial aspect of his teaching is his use of anatomical illustrations which have survived in miniature copies. Loren MacKinney, the most recent investigator of the illustrations, felt that Henry had little or no influence on his successors and that although his illustrations marked a trend toward naturalization, they were not particularly accurate.


The first printed ed. of Henry’s work was Die Chirurgie des Heinrich von Mondeville, Julius Leopold Pagel, ed. (Berlin, 1892). It was translated into French by E. Nicaise as Chirurgie de Henri de Mondeville (Paris, 1893). An Old French version dating from 1314 was published by Alphonse Bos as La chirurgie de maître Henri de Mondeville, 2 vols. (Paris, 1897–1898). Various students of Pagel translated aspects of the Chirurgie into German; for a list of these see the Sarton reference below.

The most complete account of Mondeville’s life and work is in Nicaise’s introductory essay to the Chirurgie. For a summary of some of the earlier monographic literature see George Sarton, Introduction to the History of Science, III. pt. I (Baltimore, 1947). 865 873. although Sarton makes several errors in biographical details. For more recent assessments see the following, listed chronologically; Loren C. MacKinney, “The Beginnings of Western Anatomy,” in Medical History, 6 (1962). 233 239; 1. A. Bosshard, “Psychosomatik in der Chirurgie des Mittcl-alters, besonders bei Henri de Mondeville,” in Zürcher medizingeschichtliche Abhandlungen, n.s. 11 (1963); Vern L. Bullough, The Development of Medicine as a Profession (Basel. 1966), pp. 57–64, 95: and C. Probst, “Der Weg des ärztlichen Erkennens bei Heinrich von Mondeville,” in Fachliteratur des Mittelalters: Festschrift für Gerhard Eis Stuttgart, 1968), pp. 333 347.

Vern L. Bullough