This book revolutionized the study of diseases of the chest. Auscultation in the instrumental sense dates from Laennec’s invention of the stethoscope (at first merely a roll of stiff paper) with a view to amplifying the sound of the heart’s action. The work illustrates Laennec's wooden stethoscope, which could be purchased from the publishers, and which was advertised for sale on the original printed wrappers of the first edition. Laennec's first wooden stethoscope was in two parts; later he invented a three-part stethoscope.
Laennec was considered the greatest teacher of his time on tuberculosis. Indeed, it was in elaboration of his investigation of the disease that he invented the stethoscope. He established the fact that all phthisis is tuberculous, described pneumothorax and distinguished pneumonia from the various kinds of bronchitis and from pleuritis. “Laennec’s cirrhosis” – chronic interstitial hepatitis – is described on p. 368 of Vol. 1. The second edition, 1826, is even more important, since it gives not only the various physical signs elicited in the chest, but adds the pathological anatomy, diagnosis, and treatment of each disease encountered. Laennec died of tuberculosis at the early age of 45. English translation of the first edition by J. Forbes, London, 1821.