Caldenback, Martin (German, 15th-16th century)

Woman on the delivery stool. From Der Swangern Frawen und Hebammen Rosengarten (“A Rose Garden for Pregnant Women and Midwives”) by Eucharius Rösslin, 1513

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While serving the wife of Henry IV, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, as physician to the city of Worms, Germany, Eucharius Rösslin (c. 1470-1526) determined that the high infant mortality rate in the area was due to the carelessness and lack of skill of the city’s midwives. To help correct the situation, he wrote the Rose Garden for Pregnant Women and Midwives, which was accompanied by engravings created by Martin Caldenbach, who had studied with the illustrious German artist Albrecht Dürer. It became extremely popular, and was translated into a number of languages in a series of editions. This is the first known representation of a birth chair. Rösslin instructed that when labor began, the mother should sit down. Many midwives, he said, had stools for this purpose that were of just the right height; padding should be placed against the back for the comfort of the patient. Not only should the midwife help with the birth, but she should also “instruct and comfort the party, not only refreshing her with good meate and drinke, but also with sweet words, giving her hope of a good speedie deliverance, encouraging and enstomacking her to patience and tolerance, bidding her to held in her breath as much as she may, also stroking gently with her hands her belly about the Navell, for that helpeth to depress the birth downeward.” (Source: Notes by Mariann Smith
History of Medicine
Women's Health
Wellcome Library, London