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Imre Loefler (September 2004 JRSM1) compares the new Textbook of Tropical Surgery unfavourably with Principles of Medicine in Africa. However, the latter is in its third edition whereas, as he acknowledged, the editors of the surgical textbook had 'embarked on a task never undertaken before'. I write as one of the 265 contributors from thirty-nine countries. Some of Mr Loefler's points require attention and we are grateful for the critique; others stem from the editors' aim to bridge the gap between developed and developing countries. This mammoth surgical work has no rivals, and doubtless when the time comes for second and third editions it will withstand better comparison with the medical book.