Liston’s knives for amputation by London-based surgical instrument firm John Weiss & Son.
Despite their age, the four steel cutting edges are razor-sharp. Three of the four blades are signed Weiss & Son, 62 Strand, and the smallest signed Weiss, London. The handles are composed of pressed horn and are also marked by their creator. These Weiss-made amputation knives were fashioned in Liston’s liking, described by the infamous surgeon himself as, “straight-backed, thinned near the point, and slightly convex on the edge (Liston, 1838, p. 329).”
Robert Liston was a groundbreaking surgeon for his time, famed for being a showman and recognized for his extensive knowledge in the field of human anatomy. Liston’s operations were performed with great speed and precision; his surgical procedures measured in seconds as opposed to minutes. “Time me,” Liston would say before cutting through the skin. His advanced surgical dexterity was attributed to his dedication to anatomical study and practice in the dissecting room.
“The art of operating has, even by many of those in prominment situations, been too lightly considered, and too little practiced on the dead body. The foundation of the study of the art of operating must be laid in the dissecting room, and it is only when we have acquired dexterity on the dead subject, that we can be justified in interfering with the living. Many poor creatures have been sacrificed in consequence of the ignorance, carelessness, and self-sufficiency even of scientific professors, who have either despised or neglected the study of surgical anatomy, the considerations of what may arise during this or the other operation, and the due education of their fingers (Liston, 1838, p. 3).”
Liston, R. (1838). Practical surgery. In Practical surgery; with One Hundred and Thirty Engravings on Wood (pp. 3-329). London: J. Churchill.
- From the Lusignan collection