1791 · Ticini [i.e., Pavia]
Mertens (1737–88), a Belgian physician who served for several years as supervisor of medical services at the Moscow orphanage, provided one of the earliest professional assessments of the Russian plague of 1770–72 as part of his present observations on febrile and pestilential diseases. This is the second printing of the first volume, following the first of 1778, and => the first printing to include both volumes; the work was translated into French, German, and English, with the portion specifically dedicated to the Moscow outbreak being pulled out and published separately in English as An Account of the Plague Which Raged at Moscow, in 1771. De Mertens, although an adherent of miasmatic theory, nevertheless made excellent suggestions regarding hygiene and quarantine — the latter earning him a great deal of resentment among both bureaucrats and the populace.
The press that issued this work is an interesting one. The Austrian government created the Press of the Royal Imperial Monastery of S. Salvatore within that monastery in Pavia between 1777 and 1779, and entrusted its operation to the monks, but equipped it with modern equipment and fully financed it. In 1782 the monastery was suppressed, but from 1787 through 1792 the press continued under the supervision of Balthassare Comini, publishing many medical works. Late in in 1792 Comini took full control of the press, dropped "Typographiae Monasterii S. Salvatoris" from the imprint, and continued printing until 1821. From the beginning, the main patron of the press was the University of Pavia.
The text is nicely printed in large, clear type with a woodcut headpiece at the start of each volume (the second volume having a separate title-page); at the back are four pages of advertisements from Parisian medical publisher-bookseller J.B. Baillière, dated 1822, suggesting that perhaps Baillière had purchased the sheets as remainders. This edition is => notably uncommon, with only three U.S. institutions reporting holdings to WorldCat (National Library of Medicine, University of Minnesota, Yale).
Provenance: Front free endpaper with inked ownership inscription "H.S.S. Burman" dated 1848. Later from the residue of the stock of the F. Thomas Heller bookselling firm (est. ca. 1928).
Blake, NLM 18th Century, p. 302. Early 19th–century quarter sheep and blue paste paper–covered boards, spine with gilt-stamped title and compartment decorations; binding rubbed and scuffed, spine sunned, joints starting (sewing holding). All edges speckled red. Inscription as above; small slip of paper with "Caroli de Mertens" inked in an early hand laid in. One leaf with paper flaw affecting lower outer corner, not touching text. Pages clean. (Inventory #: 40665)