Belgium publisher of ophthalmic history  


Extract from:

 MARCH 15, 2000 / Ophthalmology Times


Belgium publisher of ophthalmic history is a rare find

Task of publishing for such a limited market is truly ' labor of love'


Ophthalmic Heritage

By Norman B. Medow, MD,FACS


Over the past few years, this column has reviewed some noteworthy contemporary historical ophthalmic books. Publishing these books does not yield great financial reward since the market for them is limited. The publishers who take on these tasks do so primarily as a labor of love.

One of these publishers is Jean Paul Wayenborgh, whose publications are extremely well-done and whose love for ophthalmic history is evident in his personal life story.

Born in France and raised in Belgium, he learned the antiquarian book business in Germany as a teen-ager. Early on, he discovered his love for ophthalmic books and in 1961 he started his own antique business. He has never looked back.

In the mid-1970s, he began publishing. He met and worked with most of the world's best-known ophthalmic historians when he published the periodical Historia Ophthalmologica Internationalis.

His earliest published book, Atlas on the History of Spectacles, was a three-volume masterpiece written by W. Poulet, which was published in his Bonn, Germany location in 1978. Because of its popularity, the atlas was translated into French, Spanish, Japanese, and English, achieving much success in all of these languages.

Self made publisher

We now know that W. Poulet was a pseudonym adopted by Wayenborgh. At the time he had no authors to work with him, so he wrote, edited, and published this book himself. In 1976, Wayenborgh met Dr. Fred Blodi and a mutually beneficial relationship began, which would last for 20 years. Dr. Blodi and Wayenborgh worked together on the translation of many classical books, including the translation of Julius Hirschberg's monumental work, The History of Ophthalmology, which ultimately will be 21 volumes when completed. Every student of ophthalmic history deserves to have this series. Wayenborgh began publishing a series of books under the heading, The Monographs, about 4 years ago.

The International Biography and Bibliography of Ophthalmologists (IBBO) will be published soon*. Part I is scheduled to be released shortly.

* Volume 2 was published in 2002

To-day, Jean-Paul Wayenborgh, lives in semi-retirement, in Paraguay but continues to publish books he has promised to publish early on, and has accepted to edit and print some more that he found particularly interesting in ophthalmic history and in medical history.

Amongst the new books he published in Paraguay are:

Van Heuven: People of Vision- The extraordinary History of Ophthalmology in Southern Texas (2008)

Philippe Lanthony: Art and Ophthalmology (2009)

Albert Mudry: Adam Politzer -A life for Otology- (2010) This is volume 1 of The History of Otology

Gabor Lukacs: Extensive Marginalia in Old Japanese Medical Books (2010)