History of Medicine
Anatomical Arts and Sciences
In 1543 Andreas Vesalius produced De Humani Corporis Fabrica, the first profusely illustrated anatomy book. A brilliant dissector, the 28-year-old Vesalius insisted that reliable knowledge derives from examination of cadavers, not ancient texts. He subjected the old anatomical treatises to a rigorous test: a comparison with direct observations of the dissected body. De Fabrica became the founding text of modern anatomy, and inspired a host of successors. Like Vesalius, they compared their results with existing texts, corrected errors, and produced new texts with illustrations. The production of images based on dissection became a central component of scientific anatomy.
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Andreas Vesalius and the art of scientific anatomy
Andreas Vesalius collected and presented his findings in De Humani Corporis Fabrica (1543), a book of more than 600 pages, with beautifully detailed woodcuts by artists from the workshop of Titian. The illustrations set a new standard for accuracy, while drawing on a variety of contemporary genres of visual representation: naturalism, classicism, metaphor, landscape, death imagery and monstrosity.
De Fabrica inspired other anatomists to attempt their own books.
Juan Valverde de Amusco studied with Realdo Columbo, Vesalius’s pupil and successor. His Historia de la composición del cuerpo humano (1556) was the first anatomy published in Spanish. Valverde used Vesalius’s work as a departure for his own anatomical visions, which humorously played on identifications of self and other, and matter and spirit.
Bartolomeo Eustachi (also known as Eustachius) was court physician to the Duke of Urbino and Cardinal Giulio della Rovere. In 1552 he prepared a series of playful anatomical plates that featured figures placed inside a box with graduated measurements to help readers identify the location and scale of the parts. Most of the plates were discovered and published after his death in 1714.