Amputation saw (1)

Signierte Säge, um 1770 


Wounded and ill soldiers died a miserable death: at the beginning of the 18th century, cripples were often hanged by their own people so that they would not fall into the hands of the enemy. But the nightmare of every soldier was amputation on the battlefield.


With this instrument it went "to the point": with him, after the dissection of the diseased limb "in healthy" by amputation knife ("tour de bras", then "tour de force"), the bone sawn through. The freshly cut soft tissue had to be pushed several cm to the proximal side to expose the bone. For this purpose, special muscle hooks or semicircular metal discs were used with a notch in the base into which the bone to be sawn was fitted (see PERCY).
The size of the saw was proportional to the limb to be amputated: specimens for the finger surgery were daintily small, for the amputation of a thigh instruments were available with lengths up to 60 cm!
Of course, the instrument is not missing in the specialist literature of the time, in the "Armamentarium chirurgiae" or "L'Arsenal de Chirurgie" by Johannes SCULTETUS (1599-1645), in the "Opera chirurgico-anatomicae" by Paul BARBETTE (1672), etc. One Illustrated surgical instructions in several stages can be found in the "Institutiones chirurgicae" by Lorentz HEISTER (1683-1758). But the first pictorial representation of such a saw can be found on an oil painting from 1517. Again and again, the eerie elegance of the instrument inspired the artists to depict it on "still life": Jan Brueghel the Elder. formed a saw with a turned handle on the oil painting "The Feeling" - a monkey plays next to it (Prado / Madrid).

The "capital saw" (engl.) Experienced a considerable development over the centuries: according to the zeitgeist, the instruments were richly decorated in the Renaissance, a fashion that disappeared during the Enlightenment, emerged as instruments whose design only from the pure necessity was dictated.
"Saw handles were large, and circular in cross-section until about 1770, when a hexagonal shape was invented to improve grip" - "Iron-framed eighteenth-century saws often have highly decorative features and an elaborate tensioning screw".
The small pages are "bent", the Frenchman speaks of "petits côtés incurvés en accolade". Also typical of the 18th century are the different lengths of "petits côtés".
Typical of an instrument from the 18th century: the octagonal, slightly curved handle made of unyielding thuja wood. The Occidental "Tree of Life" came to Europe in 1596, the Oriental "Tree of Life" in 1752.


About the manufacturer
Iron surgeon saw, "poinçon trèfle couronné" [Langres 18th century], handle walnut wood. Langres is one of the oldest cities in Gaul. In the 15th century there were numerous knife manufacturers, 1418 of them lived in the r. Vernelle and the r. de la Coutellerie. Reason for the increased emergence of this industry was probably the proximity of iron warehouses and a particularly hard and fine sandstone. In a list of "maîtres coutelliers de Langres" from 1768 we find "our" manufacturer: Vinnebault VIEILLIOT, whose mark was the crowned cloverleaf, "trèfle couronné" (Camille Pagé, La Coutellerie Depuis L'Origine Jusqu'À Nos Jours : La Fabrication Ancienne & Moderne, Edition H. Riviere, Paris 1896. Les Couteliers de Province, p.82). He was settled in Langres in the rue Sainte-Barbe (Bulletin de la Société historique et archéologique de Langres, Vol.5, 1907 p.380.) Nota: in Langres came in 1713 as the son of a knife manufacturer (!) Denis DIDEROT to the world, the later co-editors of the famous encyclopedia ...



The saw shown here was purchased in Paris at the Théorème Gallery, "Antiquités du Louvre", 2 Place du Palais (Clignancourt branch). She comes from a doctor's office in Toulouse and was bought the same day Lady Di died. In the trade, such old saws seldom appear, but younger ones are relatively common on "the collector can find themselves from the last two hundred years without difficulty" (D.J. Warren) - so the collector is reasonably protected against counterfeiting. Rarely do you find the right brushes to remove bone meal between the teeth of the saw ...