Raphaël Bienvenu Sabatier (not to be confused with his son Raphaël Sauveur Sabatier) was a French surgeon and anatomist. After three years of medical studies, he became a doctor in 1752 aged only twenty, publishing his first works (De partu non naturali et contra naturam) the same year, and was appointed a member of the Academy of Surgery. As such, he was allowed to give lectures on anatomy, and began teaching at the Confrérie de Saint-Côme et de Saint-Damien in 1757. His next work, Traité complet d’anatomie, would not be published until 1764, although he edited several treatises in between.

Noticed by the Surgeon Major of the Royal Hotel of the Invalides – the military hospital and care home for disabled soldiers – Sauveur-François Morand, Sabatier joined him as his adjunct. He took over the Surgeon Major post in 1773, also becoming member of the Royal Academy of Sciences (now French Academy of Sciences). After the French Revolution, he managed to keep his position in the Invalides, and became a consulting surgeon to the new Emperor, Napoleon I.

His final work, De la Médecine Opératoire, was published in 1796; its second edition – pictured below – would not see the bookshelves until 1810. Sabatier explains in the preface that this was due to the untimely death of his printer, likely Pierre-François Didot, a member of the Didot family. His son Pierre-Nicholas, or ‘Didot Jeune’, took over the family business upon his death and printed at least the two first volumes of De la Médecine Opératoire’s second editionusing some of the family’s famous typefaces.

The third volume, printed 1811, only bears the name of the bookseller ‘Crochard’. The entry for Didot Jeune on the Bibliotheque Nationale de France states that he found himself in financial difficulties in late 1810, meaning that Sabatier had to find a different publisher for later printings of his work. It is possible that this third volume is from one of these later printings – although the binding, paper, and typography are all identical to the first two volumes. The set owned by the Wellcome Collection, and available on the Internet Archive, has all volumes published by Didot Jeune.

As for the set that has recently joined our shelves, we are not the first library to own it. Although annotations throughout the text seem to indicate that it once belonged to a student or medical practitioner (with several passages referencing past surgeons marked for future reference), all three volumes also bear the stamp of the now-closed Dr. Steevens’ Hospital, in Dublin. New editions of De la Médecine Opératoire were published in 1822, 1832, and 1852, but without Sabatier’s input. He died in July 1811, aged 78.

Post researched, written and produced by Raphaëlle, Library Assistant.

Further Readings

Académie des sciences. (n.d.) Vice-présidents et Présidents de l’Académie des sciences de 1795 à nos jours.

Bibliothèque de l’Institut de France. 2005. Les Didot, Imprimeurs de l’Institut de France.

Bibliothèque Nationale de France. (n.d.) Pierre-François Didot (1731-1795).

Bibliothèque Nationale de France. (n.d.) Pierre-Nicolas-Firmin Didot (1769-1836).

Sabatier, Raphaël Bienvenu. 1784. Traité complet d’anatomie.

Sabatier, Raphaël Bienvenu. 1791. Traité complet d’anatomie.