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January 15, 1982

Medieval Woman's Guide to Health: The First English Gynecological Handbook

JAMA. 1982;247(3):357. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320280067035

Scholars, like politicians, often accentuate simple peripheral problems while ignoring important central ones. More scholarly energy and ink have been spent on whether the writer of a popular 11th-century gynecology treatise was the woman physician of Salerno named Trotula than on the influential text itself. Beryl Rowland's pleasing Medieval Woman's Guide to Health goes directly to the central point: it is a 15th-century "English Trotula" resplendent in bilingual edition, Middle English and modern. It also has 12 black-and-white illustrations of medieval birth scenes, and 16 amusing womb drawings of fetuses in unnatural or dangerous birth presentations. The book is a treasure for modern practitioners interested in medicine's estimable past, for historians of medicine, science, and culture, and for feminists.

With familiar medieval clinical sophistication, the text considers abnormal menses, prolapsed uterus, impediments to conception, difficult childbirth, inflation of breasts, and leg swelling during pregnancy; and it suggests the baths, salves,