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Surgical instrument set, Europe, 1650-1685

This instrument case contains a scalpel and curettes, which were instruments used for scraping and cleaning a diseased surface. It is covered with shagreen (stained fish skin) with silver decorations. The handwritten inscription in one of the drawers reads “Dr Shumatt surgical case came from France in the time of the Revolution – The abolition of the Edict of Nantes 1685”. The Edict of Nantes, 1598, gave some religious freedoms to French Protestants, known as Huguenots, who previously had been persecuted. Many Huguenots left France and brought their skills to other countries in Europe.

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Glossary: surgical instrument set

Set of instruments to be used for surgery. A physician would often build up their own collection of favoured tools in order to feel as comfortable as possible when carrying out surgery.

Glossary: instrument case

A case of any kind used to hold and/or protect instruments.

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.

Glossary: curette

An instrument shaped like a spoon that is used to scrape tissue from a body cavity.