Macabre But Beautiful Illustrations Show the Horror of Victorian Surgery


Until very recently in human history, surgery was often bloody, brutal and with low survival rates. Lack of knowledge blood loss, shock and infection were common contributors to the high mortality rates of historical surgery – but what’s most interesting is the point where things began a slow evolution into the era of modern medicine.

Colour, illustrated instructions are perhaps some of the most fascinating historic documents available. Many of them look like bizarre torture scenarios, or illustrations created for a horror film – but they are absolutely, disturbingly real. Check out some of them below, and find thousands of macabre medical images at Wellcome Images.


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L0078157 Plate XV. Ligature of the arteries of the trunk.

L0072191 Plate II, illustration of trephination. Sir Charles Bell



L0078164 Plate XXXV. Amputation of the fingers and thumbs.





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