Description

    The Most Important Book in the History of Anatomy

    Andreas Vesalius. De humani corporis libri septem. [Basile: Johannes Oporinus, June, 1543]. First edition of what is possibly the most famous medical book and certainly the most important anatomical work; it is also considered to be the most beautiful anatomical book of all time. Folio in sixes. Approximately 17 x 11 inches. [viii], 659, (actually 663), [1, errata], [36] pp., with the woodcut title in first state (possibly supplied from another copy and mounted onto another leaf with no loss of image), woodcut portrait of the author (supplied in later facsimile), two double page-size woodcuts (within pagination and folded; the first (folding m3) printed on both sides and possibly supplied from a different copy). Also, this copy has the "Charta parvas" leaf (possibly supplied) which was comprised of eight anatomical woodcut figures that were meant to be cut out and pasted on the human figure on folding m3, which most copies lack; this copy has the leaf with all eight figures intact. Both m3 leaves (the folding plate mentioned above as well as the "Charta parvas" leaf) have repairs and restoration, with minimal loss. The first skeletal leaf (page 163/164) and page 201/202 both have repairs which do not affect imagery or text (there is some dampstaining to page 163/164). There is a small pencil sketch of a fetal skull at the bottom of page 312. Occasional dampstaining to lower corner of text, not affecting text or imagery. Bound in near contemporary vellum over mottled paper boards, skilfully rebacked at a later date in vellum, smooth spine ruled and lettered in black, manuscript title on lower edge of textblock. Bookplates of Harvard Medical Library on both pastedowns, bookplate of Dr. William P. Grier on front pastedown, inkstamps of the Massachusetts Medical College. Front joint repaired. A very good copy; very clean and handsome. Housed in custom-build quarter morocco clamshell case.

    "The Fabrica, a handsomely printed folio, is remarkable for its series of magnificent plates, which set new technical standards of anatomical illustration, and indeed of book illustration in general. They have generally been ascribed to an artist of Titan's school... No other work of the sixteenth century equals it... It was translated, reissued, copied and plagiarized over and over again and its illustrations were used or copied in other medical works until the end of the eighteenth century" (PMM). "Published when the author was only 29 years old, the Fabrica revolutionized not only the science of anatomy but how it was taught. Throughout his encyclopedic work on the structure and workings of the human body, Vesalius provided a fuller and more detailed description of the human body than any of his predecessors, correcting errors in the traditional anatomical teachings of Galen. Even more epochal than his criticism of Galen and other medieval authorities was Vesalius' assertion that the dissection of cadavers must be performed by the physician himself" (Garrison-Morton). This copy corresponds quite favorably to the points and faults of the Cushing copy. This includes the famous dissection theatre title-page in the correct first state with the image of the dog in the lower right corner (the second state shows a dog and a goat). Also this first state page has superior engraving to that of the second state.

    Adams V603 (without the Charta parvas). Barchas Collection 2081 (without the Charta parvas). Durling 4577. Cushing, A Bio-Bibliography VI.A.-1 (pp. 79-88, Cushing's own copy without the Charta parvas). Dibner 122; Garrison-Morton 375. Heirs of Hippocrates 281 (lacking the portrait). Horblit 98. PMM 71. Roberts and Tomlinson pp. 125-165 (the eight woodcuts cut out and pasted onto the folded sheet). Sparrow, Milestones of Science 192. Stillwell, The Awakening Interest in Science 710. Wellcome 6560.


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    Auction Dates
    October, 2012
    4th-5th Thursday-Friday
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