An 1784 defense of animal magnetisme
[Antoine Joseph Michel Servan]. Doutes d'un provincial, proposés à messieurs les médecins-commissaires, chargé par le roi, de l'examen du magnétisme animal.
Paris, Prault, 1784. 8vo. , 134, [2 blank] pp.
Contemporary grey wrappers. The half-title with a contemporary annotation identifying the author. Some dog ears, wrappers worn and spine damaged. Otherwise in good condition and untrimmed, leaving deckle edges and point holes intact.
First and only edition of a clever defense of animal magnetism (mesmerism).
Franz Mesmer formulated a theory of a universal magnetic fluidum ('animal magnetism') which permeated all things, including human beings. In Mesmer's view, disease is an obstruction of this fluidum and his task as a doctor was to remove this obstruction. At first he used magnets, but over time he relied on touch and even speech to transmit the fluid into his patients.
Although Mesmer was convinced that his method was purely scientific, many of his contemporaries regarded him as a charlatan and Mesmer struggled all his life for scientific recognition. In 1784 an appointed commission of the French Academy of Sciences investigated Mesmer's discovery. The commission, boasting such eminent members as Benjamin Franklin and Lavoisier, finally denied the existence of animal magnetism and, subsequently, its supposed curing effect.
The present pamphlet was written in response to the Academy's conclusion, staunchly defending animal magnetism. "Servan’s treatise is one of the most thoughtful contemporary criticisms of the findings of the commission" (Crabtree).
Caillet 10163; Crabtree 111; The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine M-143; cf. Betsy van Schlun, Science and Imagination. Mesmerism, Media and the Mind (2007), pp. 27-49.