For the study of the different varieties of blade we have at our disposal first of all the specimens that have actually survived. Of these the largest number are to be seen in the Naples Museum, but a considerable number are to be found scattered over various museums. An ex voto tablet found on the site of the temple of Aesculapius on the Acropolis at Athens shows a box of scalpels, among which are some interesting forms (Pl. IV). The scalpels, it will be noted, are arranged head and tail alternately. A few varieties are actually described in detail in the classical authors, and, by piecing together other references to parti¨cular instruments and drawing inferences from the various uses to which we find them put, we are able to describe a surprisingly large number of forms. The sixteenth-century writers, such as Parť, and seventeenth-century writers, such as Scultetus, illustrate with great confidence many of the cutting instruments mentioned by ancient writers, but it is easy to show that in several instances they are wrong, and, therefore, I have drawn on them as little as possible.
, the old Lacedaemonian sword, a broad blade cutting on one edge, sharp-pointed, and straight or with the tip turned slightly backwards. Thus, even in Hippocratic times the scalpel was apparently much of the same shape as it is now. Good examples of the ordinary scalpel may be seen in
As a basis of classification we may select the following points about the blade. The form may be straight or curved. There may be only one cutting edge or there may be two, and the point may be sharp or blunt. We shall examine combinations of these in the following order:
I. Blade straight
(A) Cutting on one side only (a) sharp-pointed, (b) blunt-pointed.
II. Blade curved
(B) Cutting on two edges (a) sharp-pointed, (b) blunt-pointed.
(A) Cutting on one edge (a) sharp-pointed, (b) blunt-pointed.
(B) Cutting on two edges, sharp-pointed.
1 A (a) Straight blade cutting on one edge, sharp-pointed.
- Ordinary scalpel.
- Scalpel with tip turned back.
- Bellied scalpel.
The ordinary scalpel had apparently a straight, sharp-pointed blade. The word which Galen, Aetius, and Paulus use to denote scalpel is σμίλη. Latin authors use scalpellus, the diminutive of scalper. From the etymology of these terms we can learn nothing as to the shape of the blade; they are merely general terms denoting a cutting blade of any kindchisel, graving tool, knife, &c. The word Hippocrates uses, μάχαιρα or μαχαίριον, has a more definite meaning. It is from μάχαιρα