Traité de l’usage du lait

Traité de l’usage du lait (1684)
Dissertation Sur Les Dents

Bernardin (or Barthélemy) Martin


Bernardin (a.k.a. Barthélemy, Benjamin) Martin was apothecary to Louis I, Prince of Condé, a prominent Huguenot general and founder of the House of Condé. Bernardin was born in Paris the son of Samuel Martin (d. 1653) apothecary of Queen Marie de Medici, the second wife of King Henry IV of France, and grandson of Jean Martin, a polymath and physician to King Henry IV of France.

Traité de l’usage du lait, originally published in 1684, is the first work in French expounding on milk and its uses. Bernardin Martin travelled widely throughout Spain, Portugal, Germany and Holland as a young man to prepare to inherit his father's business, journeys that helped accrue abundant knowledge of dairy. His treatise describes various dairy products and production methods in France and elsewhere throughout Europe, but he gives precautions for preparing and consuming milk products as well as provides milk remedies for certain ailments. He states that the main purpose of his research "is to see how this medicine can be applied to the advantage of the sick," and uses the work of Hippocrates and "wisdom of the ancients" as primary source materials. Much like how "superfoods" and beverages trend in urban areas to this day, milk and dairy products became fashionable in Paris around the same time as coffee (which was introduced to Paris in 1644 with the first café in 1672). This may have contributed to the popularity of his book as it was one of the first to deal with a subject which would draw increased Parisian interest in the following years. Bernardin Martin married Catherine Croyer and had three daughters. His son-in-law, Pierre Bussiere, married Martin's eldest daughter and inherited the position as apothecary to Prince of Condé. A second edition of his Traité de l’usage du lait was published posthumously in 1706. 

Bernardin's main book however, was Dissertation sur les dents in 1679, one of the first French texts on teeth. This book was published 50 years before Pierre Fauchard’s seminal work but almost 100 years after the first French book on Dentistry by Hemard (1582). Bernardin's work is not original. It appears that during his travels to Spain on a mission to collect a debt on behalf of the Prince of Condé, Bernardin came across a Castilian odonatological compendium by Francisco Martínez called Coloquio breve y compendioso, sobre la materia de la dentadura, y maravillosa obra de la boca (1557). Martinez, (1518 - 1588) was the author of the earliest Spanish dental work. B. Martin decided to freely use material from the book of Francisco Martinez without crediting it. Dissertation sur les dents consists of 14 chapters dedicated to the nature of the teeth, children's dentition, various deformities and their preservation. He writes about the primary dentition, the prevention of malposition, and treatment of dental trauma, subjects Martin also covered in his book.

Based in part on research done by Rachel Sechler, class of 2022 as part of her assignment in Elective in History of Medicine and Dentistry, 2018-2019, and based on M Ruel-Kellerman (see reference below). Edited by Andrew I Spielman.

Digital Versions


Micheline Ruel-Kellerman – Biography of Bernardin >>>