This book is one of the earliest dated volumes in the rare book collection at the George Marshall Medical Museum.
Traditionally, midwives delivered all babies. Like barber-surgeons, they had no formal education, but instead gained experience by working with experienced practitioners. They worked alone, travelling to each expectant mother's home, and stopping in the house after the birth. Midwives had a legal responsibility to witness births. As women, they were only allowed to deliver so-called natural births, and if there was any kind of unusual activity they would have to call for a doctor or surgeon to assist.
After thousands of years of women-only births, during the 1700s male midwives began to appear, selling themselves as a safer option for ladies in childbirth. These men were medical graduates with anatomical training who used forceps for difficult births. Upper- and middle-class women switched to male midwives until the 1800s, where successful efforts were made to improve training for females (improvement in public health policies also helped).
This book, dated 1765 contains chapters on the female anatomy and of natural and unnatural births and hoped to provide "Full and plain directions for the management and delivery of child-bearing women in the different cases, and the cure of the several diseases incident to them and newborn children, in the safest manner, and according to the best improvements."