RICE, Nathan P.
Trials of a Public Benefactor, as illustrated in the discovery of etherization
New York: Pudney & Russell, 1859. 8vo. xx, -460pp. Portrait frontispiece of Dr. William T. G. Morton. Half-title.
Publisher's brown cloth, covers bordered in blind, spine lettered and stamped in gilt, yellow endpapers
Provenance: Presentation inscription by Dr. William T. G. Morton to Richard Fletcher; Fletcher Town Library (19th century bookplate)
Presentation copy, inscribed by Dr. Morton.
First edition of the first biography of William T. G. Morton, the Boston dentist who in 1846 demonstrated to the medical profession the efficacy of sulfuric ether as a general surgical anesthetic. Completed in three months, Trials of a Public Benefactor was first issued in October 1858 in an unillustrated advance "press copy" edition, with the title-page dated 1858. The published edition, with the date changed to 1859 and quotations from Shakespeare and Burns added to the title, appeared a few months later (as here). Trials of a Public Benefactor, with its self-serving rendition of Morton's role in the discovery of ether anesthesia, is a key document in the history of the ether controversy. "As the account most readily available, this has been the principal document that historians and researchers have depended upon for what they believed were the facts of the matter ... Over-reliance on the Rice version, to the exclusion of looking beyond it, has largely been responsible for legitimizing the claim of William T.G. Morton while at the same time abrogating the claims of his principal rivals, Horace Wells and Charles T. Jackson, or, at least, diminishing the critical roles they played in Morton's ultimate success" (Wolfe).
Fulton & Stanton IV.66; Wolfe Tarnished Idol pp 62; 407-11.