Peter Lowe’s discourse on surgery was first published as The Whole Course of Chirurgerie in 1597 in London. The College’s library contains a first edition of this work, which was the first comprehensive surgical textbook to be written in English. It contains instruction on all surgical procedures common at the time, as well as medical advice for the treatment of ailments and guidance on health and lifestyle. The preliminary pages contain two addresses, one to the King (James VI of Scotland) and one “to the friendly reader”. They outline Lowe’s motivations for his life’s work in medicine, surgery and the healing arts, emphasising his dedication to “the common wealth” i.e. the common good. He draws inspiration from the words of Roman philosopher Cicero, whose writings were so influential in humanism and the Renaissance.
When the College’s founder Peter Lowe wrote about his motivations to improve standards of healthcare in the 16th century, his words were about hope and humanity, as much as learning and practice. These words of kindness are echoed through the centuries by the physicians and surgeons of Glasgow. Our exhibition gives voice to these expressions of hope and humanity, as we live though and recover from the Covid pandemic.