Item #003890 De humani corporis fabrica libri septem. Andreas VESALIUS.
De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.
De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.
De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.
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De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.
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De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.
De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.
De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.
De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.
De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.
De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.

De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.

Basel: Johannes Oporinus, 1543.

1st Edition. Hardcover. Very Good. Item #003890

June 1543. Large folio (380 x 267 mm). [12], 659 (i.e. 663), [37] pp. Woodcut title-page, author's portrait (misbound after title), final leaf 2M8 with colophon (Basilae, ex officina Ioannis Oporini, anno salutis reparatæ MDXLIII, mense Iunio) on recto and printer's device on verso; more than 200 woodcut illustrations (several full-page), ornamental initials; with the bifolium p4 (folding diagram of the nervous system) and the unpaginated cancel leaf signed m3 with eight woodcut anatomical details intended to be cut out and superimposed on the woodcut figure on bifolium m3 which is missing here; also absent is leaf Q5 with a full page illustration (supplied in very good facsimile). Signatures: *6 A-Z6 a-l6 m8 n-z6 2A-2L6 2M8. Bound in early 18th-century pasteboard covered with a German vellum antiphonal leaf, blue dyed edges (lacks ties, upper hinge restored with thin tissue paper), protected in custom clamshell box. Text and plates generally clean and bright; a few light waterstains in places; small tear in upper margin of folding plate; p.215/216 with tiny damage spot without loss of text; a few leaves with the inner margins strengthened with paper; minor edge-fraying of woodcut title and the portrait repaired with tissue paper; ink smudge on leaf e2; tear at blank lower margin of p.554 repaired with patch of paper obscuring one word in final line; bifolium P4 with tear at head without loss. Provenance: From the medical collection of H. August M. van Alphen M.D. (1934-2009), professor of neurosurgery at University of Amsterdam; purchased from Christie's New York (Sale 7574, Nov. 20, 1992, lot 202) as one of several medical books consigned by the Los Angeles County Medical Association (LACMA)*, library stamps of LACMA on title and recto of portrait leaf. A very good copy in a beautiful binding. ----

FIRST EDITION of Vesalius' groundbreaking work, which revolutionized the science and teaching of anatomy and which gives an encyclopedic account of the structure and workings of the human body. "Vesalius, born in Flanders but of German extraction, was (in Garrison’s words) the most commanding figure in European medicine after Galen and before Harvey. He began the study of medicine when Galen's anatomical work was just becoming known, with revolutionary effect on both the method and spirit of anatomical research. Galen, as he himself complained, had been forced to rely upon the dissection of animals; the more fortunate physicians and surgeons of the sixteenth century were able to make use of both animal and human subjects. The young Vesalius, with an iconoclastic zeal characteristic of the sixteenth century, and a forcible style all his own, endeavoured to do all that Galen had done and to do it better. The result was 'The Structure of the Human Body', published when he was twenty-nine; a complete anatomical and physiological study of every part of the human body, based on first-hand examination and his five years' experience as public prosector in the medical school at Padua. The five books deal with the bones and muscles, blood vessels, nerves, abdominal viscera, thoracic organs and the brain. Galen was not merely improved upon: he was superseded; and the history of anatomy is divided into two periods, pre-Vesalian and post-Vesalian. 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 Titian's school, long (but no longer) thought to be Jan Stephen van Calcar (1499-c. 1550). Vesalius's was the most splendid and the most comprehensive of a large number of anatomical treatises of the sixteenth century. [. . .] No other work of the sixteenth century equals it, though many share its spirit of anatomical enquiry. 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).
The woodcuts by artists of the school of Titian are both iconographically and artistically important. The series of fourteen muscle men show landscapes that, when assembled in reverse order, form a panorama of the Euganean Hills near Padua, scenery well known to Vesalius while he was at work on the Fabrica. The large woodcut on the title shows the anatomist himself at the center of the anatomical theater, demonstrating from a female cadaver. Behind, in the observers' gallery stands Death, while beneath the dissecting table and in the foreground barbers are seen quarreling, displaced from their former role as surgeons. A young man at the railing is sketching in a book, perhaps a self-portrait of the artist. The full-page author's portrait is the only surviving authentic likeness of Vesalius.
*Our copy is listed on p. 37 of the catalog "Thirty books in the Library of the Los Angeles County Medical Association : a compendium of medical history." Los Angeles, Friends of the LACMA Library, 1984. Most of the LACMA library holding was transfered to Huntington Library as long term loan and a small part of the most valuable books sold at two auctions, Christie's New York (Sale 7574, Nov. 20, 1992, and Christie's London (Sale 4838, Nov. 27, 1992. According to the curator of rare books at Huntington Library, our copy was purchased 1937 in Switzerland for the LA County Library in coordination with the Lions Club.
References & Bibliography: PMM 71; Grolier, Medicine 18A; Dibner, Heralds of Science 122; Horblit 98; Evans 91; Garrison-Morton 375; Osler 567; Norman 2137; NLM/Durling 4577; Wellcome 6560; Cushing, A Bio-Bibliography, pp. 79-90; Eimas, Heirs of Hippocrates 281; Waller 9899; Sparrow, Milestones of Science 192.


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