Rare Book Donation to the Fryer Library: Discourses on the Procreation of Man by Giovambatista Paitoni, 1722.

Guest Post - Mr Simon Farley, Manager, Fryer Library

The Fryer Memorial Library of Australian Literature was founded in 1927 in honour of John Denis Fryer and provides a rich store of books, manuscripts, photographs, theses, architectural drawings, oral histories and much more. In this post, Manager of the Fryer Library Mr Simon Farley writes about the recent donation to the library of an intriguing rare book dating from 1722.

On 30 May, we received a visit from Professor Stephen Lynch, AC MBBS FRACS, Chair of Surgery and Chair of Transplant Services at the Princess Alexandra Hospital. Professor Lynch and his wife Genni had with them a remarkable treasure, Della generazione dell’Uomowritten by a Venetian Doctor of Philosophy and Medicine Giovambatista Paitoni, first published in 1722.

Mrs Genni Lynch, Professor Stephen Lynch and the Manager of the Fryer Library Mr Simon Farley in the F.W. Robinson Reading Room. 

Professor Lynch tells the story of how he came to possess this interesting work:

I was given this book by Professor Bissi of Milan as a gift of appreciation for helping his “golden boy” Dr Gianfranco Ferla whom I had trained with in Pittsburgh USA in 1984. Professor Bissi was in his 70s when the gift was made mid-1985. When Professor. Bissi was an intern in Bergamo, Italy early in the 20th century he found it difficult to sleep in the hospital duty-room because of its proximity to the local church. In the belfry of the church lived a noisy owl which regularly disturbed the young doctors’ sleep. Bissi plotted to murder the owl one evening and scaled the bell tower. The owl escaped easily but Bissi found an old chest stored there which contained a number of copies of Paitoni’s Discourses on the Procreation of Man. Bissi appropriated the contents and over the course of his life gave them away as presents to fortunate individuals such as me. In 1985 he had only a few left.


Della generazione dell’Uomo

“When I moved to Brisbane in 1986 I recognised that the book, having survived in reasonable condition for a couple of centuries, would deteriorate in the Brisbane humidity before long. Soon after, Professor Lawrie Powell took over as Director of the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in the 1990s. I was the Head of the Transplantation Biology Program there at that time and decided to have it stored in safe keeping in optimal conditions within the vault at QIMR. It stayed there for 15 years before I took it back. It has remained at my home, largely forgotten until a recent dinner when a group of us viewed the ancient surgical instruments acquired by the RD Milns Antiquities Museum, donated by Glenda Powell in memory of her late husband Owen. I mentioned my book to Senior Museum Officer, James Donaldson and he spoke about the rare book collection housed at the Fryer Library.

I am pleased that this rare Italian medical publication has found a home at the University of Queensland’s Fryer Library. My hope is that it be translated into English in due course.”

Mr Simon Farley, Professor Stephen and Mrs Genni Lynch and Mr Bob Gerrity at a formal presentation on the 14 September celebrating the donation. 

Della generazione dell’Uomo was written and published when the author was only 19 years of age. It is so rare that we have yet to find records of it appearing in past auctions or sales catalogues.

A contemporary review, originally written in German, states:

"In these two dissertations, the author has examined the two most recent theories on the procreation of man, and has disproven the first concerning small semen-worms, and has shown the second to be correct that propagation happens in the eggs of the ovary. He has added a letter by a friend who put forward a few arguments against his theory, and he refutes these: the letter of Alexandri Knips.”

As we receive this gift we gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Professor Stephen Lynch and Mrs Genni Lynch.



Last updated:
29 November 2017