Skull drill set from the 18th century

Back in the early 1990s, I wrote an article for our old-school bOING bOING Web site about trepanation — the ancient practice of drilling holes in your skull — and its modern practitioners. Here's the article, titled "Head Like A Hole." Ever since researching that piece, I've continued to be fascinated with the history of this medical procedure. Over the years, I've spotted many trephination tools at various antique scientifica dealers. But this complete set is by far the most stately I've ever seen. No wonder it's in London's Wellcome Collection on display as part of their current Brains exhibition. From the Wellcome:

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Trephination set

Wood, leather, brass, metal, textile; Sirhenry, Paris, 1771-1830

Among the trephines themselves, with their cylindrical blades, are a large brace to hold the trephines during drilling, two rugines to remove connective tissue from bones, two lenticulars to depress brain material during surgery and a brush to remove fine fragments of bone. The styling of the instruments and their box reflects a long tradition of producing surgical and scientific instruments as finely crafted, gentlemanly possessions.

Trephination set