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Pocket surgical instrument set, London, England, 1846-1901

This instrument set is easily portable, designed to fit into a surgeon’s or physician’s pocket. It contains a range of instruments including bistouries, artery forceps, folding scalpels, lancets, forceps for dissection and dressing wounds, and a knife for cutting abscesses. Most of them are made from steel, copper and silver-plated metal and fold into protective tortoiseshell handles to make them easier and safer to carry. The owner of this instrument set added some silk cord for sutures – for stitching up wounds.

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Glossary: bistoury caché

A long, narrow-bladed knife, with a straight or curved edge and sharp or blunt point (probe-point); used for opening or slitting cavities or hollow structures. Bistoury caché literally translates as hidden knife

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: artery forceps

forceps are a two-bladed instrument with a handle for compressing or grasping tissues in surgical operations, and for handling sterile dressings, etc. Artery forceps are for specifically grasping and compressing an artery.

Glossary: suture

The closing of a wound or incision with thread to help the healing process.

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: scalpel

A small thin sharp blade used by surgeons.

Glossary: forceps

A pliers-like medical instrument used to grasp tissue.

Glossary: abscess

A swelling, caused by a build up of pus, that is located within the body tissue.