The Works of William Harvey M.D. / Translated from the Latin with a life of the author
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Physician To The King, Professor Of Anatomy And Surgery
To The College Of Physicians
When, at the instance of the governing body of the Sydenham Society, I undertook to edit the Works of the immortal Discoverer of the Circulation of the Blood, in English, I believed that the chief of these Works were already extant in our language, in such a shape as would make little more from an editor necessary than a careful revision of the text. I had unwarily adopted the idea, very gratuitously originated by Aubrey, that Harvey was what is called an indifferent scholar, and that the English versions of his writings were the proper originals, the Latin versions the translations. Having access to the handsome edition of Harvey’s Works in Latin, revised by Drs. Lawrence and Mark Akenside, and published by the College of Physicians in 1766, I had always referred to that when the course of my studies led me to consult Harvey. Of the English versions, or any other edition, I knew little or nothing. On proceeding to my new duty of English editor, however, I immediately saw that the masterwork of Harvey on the Motions of the Heart and Blood, far from having the character of an originally English writing, must have been rendered into English by one but little conversant with the subject, that it was both extremely rebutting in point of style and full of egregious errors, and that nothing short of an entirely new translation could do justice to this admirable treatise, or secure for it, at the present day, the attention it deserved. Full of zeal, and making of my task a labour of love, I had soon completed a new translation of the Exercises on the Heart and Blood, with equal pleasure and profit to myself.
The short paper on the Anatomy of Thomas Parr appears in the Philosophical Transactions in English; but it stands there as a translation; and having now translated so much myself, I even thought it would be well to translate that also, and so it was achieved.
The reader will perceive that I have abstained from annotation and commentary in the course of my labour. The purpose of the Council of the Sydenham Society, as I understood it, was to give the Works of William Harvey in English now, as he himself gave them in Latin two centuries ago. Entirely approving of this intention, I felt that anything like corrections of statements and opinions, which could so readily have been made under the lights of modern physiology, would have been impertinencies, and I therefore abstained from them. To have carried out and completed the history of Harvey’s two grand subjects, would also have been easy; but this would have been almost as obviously out of place as commentary, and the inclination towards such an agreeable undertaking was also resisted.