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Trephine with bit attached, Strasbourg, Austria, 1780-1820

Attached to the trephine is a bit for drilling into the skull during trephination. The bit can be removed and replaced by unlocking the clip on the handle. The brace, made by Lictenberger, has an ornate handle, common for 1700s design. It is made of ebony and steel, both hard-wearing materials suitable for the difficult job of drilling through bone. Made by Lictenberger of Strasbourg, Austria, this trephine was was collected by Henry Wellcome from the private collection of Noel Hamonic (active 1850-1928). Two collections were purchased; one of surgical instruments in June 1928 for £4,400 and one of pharmacy items in July 1928 for £803.

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    Glossary: trephine

    An instrument for trepanning, being an historical advancement on the trepan. It is a circular or cylindrical saw, with a handle like that of a gimlet, and a little sharp perforator called the center pin.

    Glossary: trephination

    The removal of a circular piece of the top of the head. This is done using a sharp implement or circular saw, and was common in Neolithic times. It is thought that the aim was to release evil demons or spirits from the body in the hope this would cure the person of their illness.