Apoplexy in the Renaissance

Hieronymus Brunschwig, “Of One that Hath the Palsye,” in A Most Excellent and Perfecte Homish Apothecarye or Homely Physik Booke, trans. John Hollybush (Collen: Arnold Birkman, 1561):

The palsey taketh men sundery wyse / for somtime commeth the disease by anger / somtyme by colde / somtyme by superfluous eatinge and drinkinge / whereof is engendred in man ouermuche slyme / whereby the veynes are stopped / or els that the blood encreaseth excessiuely / and ouercommeth the harte / or els strayth in the membres / of the which is caused the palseye. It taketh men also that be lecherous / whose mary in the bones waysteth & cooleth / so that vnwares all his sorce fayleth / and he finally doth dye. (6)

Ambroise Pare, “Of the Palsey,” in Of Wounds in General, in The Workes of that Famous Chirurgion Ambrose Parey (1585), trans. Thomas Johnson (London: Th: Cotes and R. Young, 1634):

THe Palsie is the resolving or mollification of the Nerves, with privation of sense and motion, not truly of the whole body, but of the one part therof, as of the right or left side. And such is properly named the Palsie: for otherwise and lesse properly the resolution of some one member is also called the Palsie: For when the whole body is resolved, it is an Apoplexy. Therfore the Palsie sometimes takes halfe the body, otherwhiles the uper parts which are betweene the navell and the head, otherwhiles the lower which are from the navell to the feet; somtimes the tongue, gullet, bladder, yard, eyes, and lastly any of the panicles of the body.

It differs from a Convulsion in its whole nature. For in a Convulsion, there is a contention and contraction of the part, but in this a resolving and relaxation thereof: besides, it commonly happeneth that the sense is either abolished or very dull, which usually remaines perfect in a Convulsion. There are some which have a pricking, and as it were great paine in the part. (332)

Christof Wirsung, The General Practise of Physicke (1588), trans. Jacob Mosan (London: Richard Field, 1605):

This is indéede a swift, grieuous and terrible disease, which (like as is said before) hath his ofspring from the brain. It is of diuers natures, each one worse then the other, which we will comprehend in fiue kinds: the first is Lethargus, which is the sléeping sicknesse: the second is Stupor or Tremor, which is astonishing and quaking, which some call the small palsey: the third is Paralysis, that is, the right or dead Palsey: the fourth is Epilepsia, which is the falling sicknesse, and all kinds of such like paroxismes, sometimes in old men, and otherwhiles in young children: the fift is Apoplexia, that is the most grieuousest, which not without reason, we do call the power or hand of God.

Because that these said sicknesses do resemble each other in many things, therfore we will before all briefly discouer what difference there is betwéene them, and wherein they do accord together. First therefore Apoplexia and Epilepsia, haue this difference, that the last mentioned is placed before in the head, the man fallen neither calleth nor cryeth out, the sinewes stirre, and are contracted towards the braine, he hath the breath almost wholly frée, and commeth quickly to himselfe againe. To the contrarie, the Apoplecticus, or he that is stricken with the dead Palsey, the sicknes is ouer his whole head, cryeth in falling, the sinewes will be slacke, they haue a grieuous or no breath, and come slowly to themselues: but they resemble each other so like, that they be both caused of flegmaticke humors in the braine.

The Palsey or Apoplexia, is also differing from the numbednesse and sléeping sicknes, which is Lethargus, Subeth, and Congelatio: but in Congelatione, there is no restraint of the breath, as there is in the Palsey: secondly, it forcibly assaileth the sicke persons; they thrust, crie out, and such like, which is nothing so cum Apoplecticis.

Thirdly, that the sléeping disease commeth slowly, and the dead Palsey very sodainly. But herein they accord, that all they be altogether depriued of their vnderstanding. Subet or Stuper, doth therin disagrée with Lethargus and Congelatio, that at the last there assaileth in Lethargus an Ague, and an Impostume in the hinder part of the head: where contrariwise Subet or Stuper commeth without an Ague, and alwaies without any sorenesse, and in the forepart of ye head. (“Of the Palsey in general,” 134)