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April 3, 1967


JAMA. 1967;200(1):47-48. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120140105018

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These charming essays ( The Midwife and the Witch, by T. R. Forbes [Yale University Press, 1966], $6.50) are held together by some common threads—they all have to do with aspects of obstetrics, conception, pregnancy, or sex, and they all deal with folklore, customs, and superstitions. All are admirably written and exhibit meticulous scholarship. A massive bibliography makes the book invaluable for scholars but does not interfere with the casual reader's enjoyment of the text.

In this book medical history mingles with folklore, anthropology, and literature. We have vivid word pictures, touching numerous aspects of medieval and early Renaissance life. Some essays are, perhaps, a little pedantic, others have a much broader appeal. Those which made the greatest personal appeal to this reviewer dealt with pregnancy and fertility tests, word charms, the "Veil of Good Fortune" (the caul), and the story of Perrette, the midwife. But individual preference, obviously, will vary.