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The Doctor's Quotation Book: A Medical Miscellany
by Dr. Robert Wilkins, editor
Barnes and Noble, New York, 1991, 96pp, HC.
[World BC-20C]

This is a little book which cannot hope to cover the sheer quantify and variety of medical writing. To attempt to be representative, much less comprehensive, would require a volume twenty times the size of this one. Consequently, at a very early stage in the selection process, I decided that the choice of quotations would be mine and mine alone, guided only by my own likes and dislikes, and my own personal preferences about what I considered memorable, insightful, ill-considered or humorous.

I have tried to admis aphorisms and anecdotes, and blend the one-lines with more detail descriptions. i have also attempted to included lesser known authors: after all, it would be the easiest thing to fill this book with the wit and wisdom of Osler or Wendell Holmes, of Shakespeare's medical references, with the bons mot of the Hunter brothers or the cynicism which Shaw had to doctors and all things medical. If I have favoured any it is those doctors who found the expression of their genius in writing: John Keats, Conan Doyle and Somerset Maugham.

When the sources of some of the entries are not as complete as others, I have opted for inclusino rather than sacrifice.

The chances are high that you will only find a handful of your favourites, and that the majority of the medical quotations which you consider indispensible are missing from this book. True to my initial resolve I make no apology, but hope that you will find some unfamiliar material to take your fancy. If you are still prone to grouse, you are welcome to write to the publisher to ask them to commission from me a larger work, which will give me the pleasure delving again into the riches of the medical literature.

One quote eluded me. From my student days I half remember a horticultural allusion to the appearance of the anus following haemorrhoidectomy: '...and if the op's a failure it looks like a dahlia'. But which flower did it resemble if all had gone according to plan?

Paxton House, Reading

January 1991