Do No Harm – Kate Lacour

5 out of 5

Illustrations and text related to medical instruments or medicines from across eras, detailed from the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum’s collection.

Lacour opens her passport-ish sized booklet – sporting a perfect cover of a caduceus featuring two angry snakes wrapped around arm bones – with a reminder that the book’s title, Do No Harm, is actually not explicitly part of the Hippocratic Oath.  Rather, the pledge stresses focusing on healing, and not aiming to hurt… but, as Kate reminds us, “no medical treatment is without associated harms, known and unknown.”

Do No Harm is an easy extension of Kate’s previous artly contemplations on life and death and the body, and given the amount of birth-related items illustrated, her fascinations with that process as well.  She keeps it impartial, though, describing, on the left, the use of the items illustrated (in black and white inks) on the right, generally with some historical context as well – when and why they became popular, and when and why they fell out of use.

At first glance I was expecting to be somewhat bored by this, but it really is riveting, and not just because of the ghastliness of the application of some of these, which are not the medieval torture tools that might spring to mind, rather more mundane things that our sciency unawareness dreamt up between the 1800s and now; the sort of flat innocence of Kate’s sketches is in such stark contrast to the to-the-point text that it’s hard to put the book down.  As with Vivisectionary, I would love for this to become a series.