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Two lancets in a patterned silver case, England, 1844

Two lancets in a patterned silver case, England, 1844

Credits: Science Museum

These double-edged lancets were used in bloodletting . Bloodletting was used as a cure for many fevers – diseases were believed to be caused by a build up of blood. Each lancet has a tortoiseshell guard and is stamped with the maker’s name, “Savigny & Co”. When opened the lancets measure 90 mm in length. The depth of the cut for bloodletting depended on the skill and the experience of the user, but it is likely that it would have been used on a number of people without any effective form of sterilisation. The two lancets sit in a silver patterned case marked with the initials “RG”, which may refer to the owner. The hallmarks indicate that the case was made in Birmingham in 1844.

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Glossary: lancets

A surgical instrument of various forms, commonly sharp-pointed and two-edged. The lancet is used in venesection (the act of opening a vein for bloodletting), and in opening abscesses.

Glossary: bloodletting

Puncturing a vein in order to withdraw blood. A popular medical practice for over two thousand years. Bloodletting often involved withdrawing large quantities of blood in the belief that this would cure or prevent many illnesses and diseases. The practice has been abandoned for all but a few very specific conditions.