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Heirs of Hippocrates

The Development of Medicine in a Catalogue of Historic Books

Complete Record - Heirs of Hippocrates No. 281

ANDREAS VESALIUS (1514-1564) De humani corporis fabrica libri septem. [Ex officina Joannis Oporini 1543] [12] 663 (misnumbered 659) [36] pp., illus., 171 plates (2 fold.), port. (facsimile). 41.6 cm.

For more information on this author or work, see number: 280

It is often a matter of friendly contention among medical historians as to which is the "more important" book, Vesalius' De humani corporis fabrica or Harvey's De motu cordis. It cannot be denied that the Fabrica is the most famous anatomical work ever published, to this day one of the most beautiful in existence, and the milestone in all medical history which definitely showed a break from old traditions. It cannot be emphasized too often that this was an epochal book. The beautiful woodcuts, executed under the supervision of Vesalius by the artist Jan Stephan van Calcar (1499-1546?), student of Titian, are famous for their beauty, accuracy, and lavishness of detail and number. It was E. Jackschath of Tilsit who pointed out that the background scenes of the "muscle men" illustrations are, when collected into a continuum, a dioramic replica of the Paduan countryside of the time of Vesalius. The often-copied frontispiece dissecting scene, a portrait of Vesalius dissecting the arm, and the innumerable capital letters (depicting grave robbing, naked little boys urinating with abandon, operation for the stone, childbirth, cranial operations, etc.) are as fascinating a study as are the 171 anatomical plates. Throughout this copy there are many interesting marginal notes, written in Latin in fine, careful script, sometimes revealing the critical opinions of a former owner of this book. This first edition of the Fabrica is the heart of any library of medical history.

Cited references: Choulant-Frank, pp. 178-180; Cushing V76; Cushing Vesalius VI.A.-1; Durling 4577; Garrison-Morton 375; Osler 567; Waller 9899; Wellcome 6560

Gift of John Martin, M.D.

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