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    "The Publication of this Book Was the
    Greatest Event in Medical History..."

    Andreas Vesalius. De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem. Basel: Johannes Oporinus, June [August] 1543. First edition. Folio in sixes. viii, 663, [36, index] pages. Woodcut title page of the dissection theatre, portrait of Vesalius at work, twenty-one full paged illustrations (including three skeletons and the fourteen "muscle-men"), over 200 woodcuts, inhabited initials, and printer's device on verso of last leaf. Lacks two folding sheets after m2 and p3; and the "Charta Parvas" leaf (m3), all supplied in facsimile. Illustrated ex-libris bookplate "Norwich" by Leo Wyatt on front pastedown (showing a skeleton with navigational tools working on top of his own copy of the Fabrica). French catalog entry tipped-in on front pastedown. Bound in full modern vellum with gilt lettered leather title and year labels on spine. Housed in a cloth clamshell book box with a small "Vesalius/ 1543" in gilt on spine.
    Sheets measure approximately 9.5 x 14.5 inches. Pages with minor paper repairs in corners and margins. Some tracks and paper loss in margins due to biopredation (heavier on leaves Q5 to T3), which have been repaired with minor effect to image and text. Some leaves appear to have been washed. Partially erased pencil notes on rear pastedown. Title page laid down on another leaf, minor spots of paper loss in the image area, 2.5 inch vertical tear in the upper right corner and 2 inch vertical tear in the lower left corner. Portrait of Vesalius re-inserted, small hole beneath the 'E' in Vesalii, and indications of possible ink stamp removal in lower area of image. Dried glue remnants and small holes on page [vi] over "Typographus Lectori" paragraph, and on last leaf over colophon. A5 repaired in lower margin. Small stain in image area of "muscle-man" illustration on page 174. Some pen annotations and underlines, holograph pencil numbers in upper corners addressing pagination errors. Sheets trimmed close to the text, creating narrow margins. Light soiling, occasional foxing, few stains, minor page creases; otherwise a good copy of one of the most important medical books ever produced.
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    "By this epoch-making work Vesalius, the 'Father of Modern Anatomy,' prepared the way for the rebirth of physiology by Harvey. More important still, he undermined the widespread reverence for authority in science and prepared the way for independent observation in anatomy and clinical medicine. The publication of this book was the greatest event in medical history since the works of Galen." - Garrison-Morton, 375.


    Early in Vesalius' studies he, as most other physicians, was a devotee of the works of Galen; however, while dissecting human bodies as a lecturing anatomist, he began to see contradictions between the texts of Galen and his own personal observations.


    "In 1539 his supply of dissection material became much greater when Marcantonio Contarini, judge of the Paduan criminal court, became interested in Vesalius' investigations and made the bodies of executed criminals available to him - occasionally delaying executions to suit the convenience of the young anatomist. For the first time Vesalius had sufficient human material to make and to repeat detailed and comparative dissections. As a result, he became increasingly convinced that Galen's description of human anatomy was basically an account of the anatomy of animals in general and was often erroneous insofar as the human body was concerned. During the winter of 1539 he was sufficiently sure of his position to challenge the validity of Galenic anatomy in Padua...


    "Vesalius' greatest contribution to the elucidation of anatomy is to be found in the illustrations to the Fabrica. With the exception of those few diagrammatic illustrations that are known to have been drawn by him there is no positive identification of individual draftsmen. The soundest theory is that they were students from Titian's studio in Venice. Possibly among them was Jan Stephen of Calcar, who drew the three figures of the skeleton for the published version of Vesalius' anatomical plates of 1538; but the three skeletons of the Fabrica are so greatly superior to those of the earlier work that it seems unlikely that Calcar was responsible for them." -  DSB, Volume 14, pages 5 and 8.


    As a testament to the artistic merits of this ground breaking scientific book, it is fascinating to note that the fourteen illustrations of the "muscle-men" when placed side by side make up a continuous landscape of the Euganean Hills near Padua, where Vesalius composed this masterwork.


    The Fabrica was published in August 1543, although the colophon states it was published in June of that year. (DSB).

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2015
    4th-5th Wednesday-Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
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