Since 21 September 1994 I have been engaged almost constantly in the translation of the manuscript consultation reports of Francesco Torti (1658–1741) of Modena. The great courtesy of the Biblioteca d’Este of that city has allowed me to obtain microfilms and enlarged copies of the entire collection. The prints occupy nine boxes and contain 329 undated letters, most (but not all) of which consist of holographic petitions containing medical histories and Torti’s replies. These I converted into 4,507 pages of holograph, which came to 1,969 pages of typescript, which I then converted into 4,928 pages of holograph English translation (which have not yet been converted into typescript). The first three hundred items of the collection are in Italian, the remainder in Latin. Almost all have no dates, but occasional passages indicate that most of the reports were written during Torti’s retirement.
The sixty-fourth item in the series is titled “Inzuppamento alle parti inferiori, e di basso ventre. Transunto di risposta per un Cav[alier]e di Piacenza” [Drenching of the lower structures and of the abdomen. Copy of reply on behalf of a gentleman of Piacenza]. The letter of petition tells of a man aged about fifty who had swelling of the lower limbs, dyspnea, and palpitation: “Non si dubbita punto di travasmento acquoso nell’ addome mentra non vi si osserva alcuna fluttuazione” [There is no suspicion at all of watery extravasation in his abdomen, since no fluctuation is found]. [End Page 73]
Torti’s reply includes the following statement: “Dal sospetto di colezione d’acque nella cavità dell’ Addome ci assicura la Relazione del Male, sul ragionevole fondamento della mancanza di fluttuazione sin’ ora sensibile, ed facile a Chi è sul fatto l’assicurarsene anche meglio con nuova inspezione, o col percuottimento della mano sul ventre” [As to the suspicion of collection of water in the abdominal cavity the report of the illness is assuring, on the reasonable basis of lack of fluctuation perceptible up to now, and it is easy for anyone who is present to assure himself even better with a new inspection, or with percussion with his hand on the abdomen].
In the present condition of my health (which also fluctuates) I cannot venture to provide further investigation, except to remark that Torti became professor of medicine in Modena in 1685, and that in 1741, when Torti died, Auenbrugger was nineteen years old.
Saul Jarcho, a retired internist, was President of the American Association for the History of Medicine from 1968 to 1970. He has been contributing to the Bulletin of the History of Medicine since 1941.