Historical perspective

This is the 26th edition of this world famous textbook. It has stood the test of time as evidenced by increasing sales, edition by edition, a tribute to the foresight of the original authors Hamilton Bailey and McNeill Love. The following overview has been abridged from an original article published in the Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, by Mr RCG Russell, with permission.

First appearing in 1932, this now classic text book emanated from Hamilton Bailey's success with his first book Physical Signs in Clinical Surgery - published in 1926 while he was a surgeon at Dudley Road Hospital, Birmingham. Bailey’s third book, Emergency Surgery, was published while he was a surgeon at Bruce Wills Memorial Hospital, Bristol. These books established Bailey as a medical author and teacher of international renown.

McNeil Love and Hamilton Bailey were appointed to the Royal Northern Hospital, London in November 1930. They had been registrars together at the London Hospital between 1922 and 1925 and both had failed to be appointed to the London Hospital at an historic interview in 1925. As often occurs, this joint failure drew the two men together and created a bond that lasted for many years. It was this bond that saw both McNeil Love and Hamilton Bailey through what were difficult years before being appointed to the Royal Northern, a hospital whose reputation they largely established. McNeil Love was said to have had the lesser contribution to the book, and indeed wrote little else, but busied himself with the Court of Examiners of the Royal College of Surgeons, of which he was Chairman. He was subsequently elected to Council in 1945, retiring in 1953. On his retirement he endowed the McNeil Love medal, which is awarded to a member of the staff of the College who has served for 25 years in a capacity other than that of a senior academic, or an administrator. Love died in 1974, but had little to do with the book during his retirement.

On the other hand, Bailey, and subsequently his wife, Zeta, kept a very close hold on the book up to the time of her death in 1989. Zeta was a photographer with a keen eye for illustration and played a major role in the production of the book. She worked closely with illustrators, producing many of those vivid pictures that stick in every surgeon’s mind. Bailey's surgical career was foreshortened by a psychiatric illness from which he was slow to recover, but after a period of prolonged management culminating in the successful use of lithium he was able to start again on his prodigious literary output. Despite no longer being in active practice, he was able by wide reading and contact with his numerous contributors and friends to maintain an intimate knowledge of the advances in surgical practice and supervised the 1956, 1959, and 1962 editions. During this time, the considerable changes in surgery were encompassed in the text with the zeal for accuracy and clarity that laid the foundations of the continuing success of this text.

As has occurred in many textbooks, the need for specialism to achieve an authoritative text became necessary and more reliance was placed on the specialist chapter author. Orthopaedics rightfully came to occupy a greater part of the book and therefore, when the appointment of a replacement to the inactive and retired McNeil Love was necessary, John Charnley of hip prosthesis fame accepted this role. With the death of Hamilton Bailey in 1961, the editorial team was completed by the appointment of Professor Harding Rains, Professor of Surgery at Charing Cross Hospital, London. It was his wise editorship that established the book during its period of greatest growth, accompanied by John Charnley (1965 edition), Melville Capper, a prestigious Bristol surgeon (1968, 1971 editions), David Ritchie, Professor at the London Hospital (1975, 1981 editions), and finally by Charles Mann, a surgeon also from the London Hospital and from St Mark's Hospital (1984,1988 editions). By the end of this period the book was established as one of the foremost surgical texts in the world.

Charles Mann kept emphasizing the need for clarity in expression, clarity in thought and clarity in advice. He believed that Bailey & Love was a success because of its common sense approach to surgery. A great deal of science which was unhelpful to the understanding of surgical practice was invariably excluded while the emphasis on clinical signs, clinical diagnosis and logical action laid the foundation to surgical practice. The Final Fellowship examination, perhaps as a consequence of the influence of McNeil Love, has always emphasized these points and indeed a poor clinical viva is still looked upon without sympathy by the Court of Examiners.

Over the last three editions efforts have been made to modernize the book. In the 22nd edition a double-column format was used and a great deal of text completely rewritten, without increasing the size too greatly. With the 23rd edition, more changes occurred in the text, including the complete rewriting of the orthopaedic and head & neck sections under the editorship of Christopher Bulstrode, Professor in Orthopaedic Surgery at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford. The book is now larger, more profusely illustrated and better laid out than previous editions. Modern technology has aided the presentation of the traditional illustrations; Zeta, Hamilton Bailey's wife, would be proud of the results.

Part of the success of a book depends on its publisher, as every author is acutely aware. For failure, authors turn to the publisher. In the case of Bailey & Love one publisher, H.K. Lewis, managed the book from its inception to the demise of the publisher. H.K. Lewis, a privately owned company, sold out to Dillons bookshops who immediately sold the publishing arm of the business to Chapman & Hall, a part of The Thomson Corporation in 1995. Fortunately the head of the section looking after Bailey & Love moved with the book to Chapman & Hall, so maintaining the traditions of the book. This was particularly important as some of the original drawings were maintained in the 22nd edition and it was necessary to rescue the original artwork. Such is the turmoil within the publishing arena that The Thomson Corporation subsequently sold the Chapman & Hall medical book list to Arnold Publishers in 1998.

The editors cannot hold the publisher entirely responsible for the new edition. It is up to you the reader to determine whether this old friend maintains its value. The editors wait with trepidation on your judgement.

© Mr R. C. G. Russell MS FRCS



© CRC Press 2013