William Cheselden was born on October 19, 1688 at Somerby, near Burrow-on-the-Hill, Leicestershire. He most likely apprenticed as a surgeon in Leicester in his early youth, but by 1703 he was a pupil of the noted anatomist William Cowper in London, and about the same time was apprenticed as a surgeon at St. Thomas's Hospital. By 1711, he was lecturing in anatomy privately and later at St. Thomas's Hospital, where he became a surgeon in 1718. As a surgeon, he was particularly noted for his operation for the stone, for which he invented a new method. His noted work, Anatomy of the humane body, was first published in 1713 and became an important textbook, going through 16 English and American editions up to 1806. He died on April 10, 1752 in Bath and is buried on the grounds of the Chelsea Hospital.
In 1733, William Chesleden published Osteographia, a grand folio edition depicting human and animal bones, featuring beautiful copperplate images, including playful skeletons, vignettes, and initials. He depicts all the bones of the human body separately in their actual life size "and again reduced in order to shew them united to one another." Cheselden and his engravers, Gerard van der Gucht and Mr. Shinevoet, employed a camera obscura to execute many of the images, and the practice is depicted in the title page vignette. The work, which was most likely printed for Cheselden by William Bowyer, was unfortunately a financial failure, as his bid for subscribers was met "with little success," which was the case with so many large anatomical atlases of the period.
Dictionary of National Biography. (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1887). Vol. 10, pp. 192-194.
Morton's Medical Bibliography (Garrison and Morton). Ed. By Jeremy Norman. 5th ed. (Aldershot, Hants.: Scolar Press ; Brookfield, Vt., USA : Gower Pub. Co., 1991). No. 395.
Russell, K. F. British anatomy, 1525-1800: a bibliography of works published in Britain, America and on the Continent. 2nd ed. (Winchester, Hampshire: St. Paul's Bibliographies, 1987). Introduction and nos. 147-178.
______. "The Osteographia of William Cheselden." Bull. Hist. Med., vol. 28, pp. 32-49.