One of my favorite parts of experiencing a book–whether it’s a nineteenth century treatise, or a trashy beach novel–is reading the dedication page. I always wonder how much time and effort the author puts into deciding who gets the honor of the dedication (and of course, thinking about who I will dedicate my dissertation to…) and am at times marveled at the beauty of the words.
Having said that, here’s one of my favorite dedication from John Cunningham Saunders’ (1773-1810) atlas, The Anatomy of the Human Ear (1806):
To Astley Cooper, Esq., F.R.S.
The dedication of this book to you indulges at once my gratitude and my ambition. I avail myself of this opportunity to acknowledge the many obligations which your kindness and uniform attention have conferred on me. With pleasure I render this tribute to your friendship.
In seeking the authority of your name I have consulted the means of enhancing my own reputation. Who can more properly patronize a work on the Ear than one who has signalized himself by the elucidation of its diseases? Who so well appreciate the merits which it may possess, or shield its defects against the severity of criticism? The world is acquainted with your professional abilities, and respects your opinion. Your enthusiasm and unremitting endeavours to cultivate the department of Surgery, are displayed in the works which you have already given to the public; and it is confidently predicted that your talent for observation, quickened by an ardent desire to improve the science, will contribute fresh accessions to our knowledge, and add lustre to the profession.
But it is not merely by your own labours, great as they are, that you benefit society. Placed as a principal teacher in the first medical school in Great Britain, you impart a portion of your energy to your pupils, many of whom will be excited by the influence of your example to professional exertions not worthy of the place where they received their education.
I am, Sir,
With respect and attachment,
Your most obedient Servant,
Ely Place, March 12, 1806.
On a related note: how come we don’t close our correspondence that way anymore? There’s some romantic flair in professing one’s respect to another…no? Too outdated?
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