Vesalius and the Beheaded Man

Professor Anita Guerrini, Horning Professor in the Humanities at Oregon State University, wrote today’s guest post.  It was first published on the author’s site, Next Tuesday, September 13th, 6:30pm, Dr. Guerrini will give a talk at the Academy Library, “Animals and Humans in Louis XIV’s Paris.”   Registration is required in advance ($35 for Friends of the Rare Book Room; $50 for the general public, with wine and refreshments).  You’ll find registration and more about the event here.

On the 12th of May, 1543, Jakob Karrer von Getweiler was executed in Basel, Switzerland. Reports say he was beheaded, although hanging was a more usual mode of execution. Karrer was a bigamist who attacked his legal wife with a knife after she discovered his second wife. According to a contemporary account, Karrer was a habitual criminal, and he left his wife grievously injured. Although she did not die, he was sentenced to death.

The renowned Flemish anatomist Andreas Vesalius had been in Basel for several months to supervise the publication of his magnum opus, De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (Seven books on the structure of the human body), published there later that year.

Perhaps it was inevitable that Vesalius was granted Karrer’s body to dissect. Only executed criminals could be publicly dissected, with the blessing of the Basel Senate. We do not know if the Senate offered Vesalius the beheaded body or if he requested it. But Vesalius dissected Karrer, in front of an audience.


A historiated initial showing a decapitated head being passed down from a scaffold, published in de humani corporis fabrica (1543).

Vesalius then took Karrer’s dissected remains with the intention of making an articulated skeleton. In chapter 39 of Book 1 of De Humani Corporis Fabrica, the anatomist had detailed for the first time the lengthy and gruesome process of constructing a skeleton. He included this illustration of someone handing down a decapitated head from a scaffold.

Some of the techniques had existed for quite a while; the 14th century physician Guy de Chauliac noted “Nous faisons aussi l’Anatomie [d]es corps desseichez au Soleil, ou consommez en terre, ou fondus en eau courante ou bouillante”1 (we make an anatomy of bodies dried in the sun, or consumed by the earth, or dissolved in running or boiling water – “an anatomy” here indicates a skeleton). Macerating in water and then drying in the sun were long-known methods of preparing bones for transport.

In his chapter, Vesalius first described the conventional method of preparing a skeleton, and illustrated it in one of the initial letters in his book. As much flesh as possible was cut off of the body – without severing the joints or the ligaments – before it was put in a long perforated box, covered with quicklime, and sprinkled with water. After a week the box was placed in a stream of running water and the flesh would presumably fall off of the bones and be washed away over a period of several more days. Then the body was removed from the box, further cleaned with a knife, and posed in the sun to dry in a particular position, held together by its ligaments.

Vesalius described this method only to denigrate it as time consuming, dirty, and difficult; moreover, the blackened ligaments would cover the joints and other parts of interest. He proceeded to describe in excruciating detail the proper way to separate human bones from flesh. “Get any kind of cadaver somewhere,” he began. The corpse was dissected and then boiled “in a large and capacious cauldron … of the kind women use for the preparation of lye over the fire.” He saved the cartilaginous parts such as the ears and stuck them to a piece of paper, and placed the organs and blood (squeezed out of a sponge) in another vessel.

The bones were boiled, carefully covered by water at all times, for several hours, with regular skimming off of froth and fat. The bones of children, he said, take less time than adults. “The object of the cooking is to clean the bones as thoroughly as is done with the knife while eating.”


Historiated initial in Andreas Vesalius’ second edition of de humani corporis fabrica, 1555.

Therefore one should pull out individual bones from the “broth” with tongs from time to time and clean them further with the hands or a knife, but this job should not be entrusted to a mere amateur. The knives he used were similar, if not identical, to the knives wielded by such master meat-carvers as Vincenzo Cervio later in the sixteenth century, and the language of cooking is explicit. One then placed the cleaned bones in more boiling water, and finally removed them, carefully drying them with a rough cloth to remove remaining bits.




Bone drill, published in Andreas Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica, 1555.

The bones should not be allowed to dry too much. If they are not too hardened, a shoemaker’s awl may be used to punch holes for the copper wire used to string the bones together, although in his 1555 second edition Vesalius also described a bone drill he had constructed.

He recommended starting with the feet and working upward, the reverse of the common head-to-toe order of dissection. An iron rod, made to order, supported the vertebrae; the arms were then assembled and wired to the trunk.

With characteristic macabre whimsy Vesalius recommended posing the skeleton with a scythe, or a pike, or a javelin, and suggested stringing the ear bones and ears onto a nerve to make a necklace (when I read this I could only think of Tim O’Brien’s surreal story “The Sweetheart of Song Tra Bong,” in The Things They Carried (1990), and its heroine Mary Anne who wears, at the end, a necklace made up of severed Viet Cong ears).

The skeleton of Jacob Karrer, unlike most others from this era, still survives, and is on display at the anatomy museum in Basel, where I saw it a few months ago.


Skeleton of Jakob Karrer, Anatomisches Institut der Uni Basel. Photo Credit: Anita Guerrini.

We hope to see you at Dr. Guerrini’s talk next Tuesday, September 13th.


  1. La grande chirurgie de Guy de Chauliac. Paris: Alcan, 1890.



The Origins of Automated Ice

By Danielle Aloia. Special Projects Librarian

This August, for most of us, ice is a second thought:  easily obtained for cooling drinks and chilling food, and usually only a few steps away.   An 1844 title in our collections offers an intriguing snapshot of a time when this was not always the case.

In 1844, a Londoner with a shop on Regent Street and an inventive mind published The Ice Book: Being a Compendious and Concise History of Everything Connected with Ice.  His name was Thomas Masters.   In this publication, Masters enumerates the practical uses–both culinary and medical– of his own patented ice machine.  In his introduction, Masters describes his obsession with the process of freezing:

The transformations narrated in the “Arabian Nights,” those gorgeous repositories of Eastern legendary lore, are not more marvelous or more speedy than the change of a liquid body to a block of solid ice.1

During the course of The Ice Book, Masters introduces his invention and its applications and takes readers on a whirlwind tour of ice through space and time.  Along the way, he also supplies some delectable frozen recipes–sign us up for the maraschino ice cream, the nectar ice and the punch a la Victoria, stat.

Masters reports that the Greeks and Romans were known to use snow from the surrounding mountains to cool their wine.2 Nero’s cooks flavored snow with “honey, juices, and pulp of fruits,” creating a precursor to the flavored ice of today, and eventually ice cream.3


Depiction of a runner delivering snow from the mountains to Nero. Published in the National Dairy Council’s Ice Cream Through the Years, 1946.

Masters also describes Indian methods of making artificial ice, reporting that during the winter months, ice was created by filling rows of small earthen pans with boiled water, which was then cooled and left overnight.  The thin ice was gathered up, thrown in a pit that was lined with straw and layered with blankets, and pressed into a solid mass.  The pit was closed up with straw, blankets and a thatched roof.

Masters devotes a significant portion of his narrative to the promotion of his portable “patent freezing machine.”  In his introduction he writes:

The preparation of one of the most delectable refections known to this advanced era of modern culinary civilization, has been hitherto left to the experienced confectioner, on whose skill, not always within reach, depended the supply.  By attending to the instructions contained in the following pages, ices may now be procured from the machine within five minutes.4

A review of the book in The Patent Journal and Inventors’ Magazine offers this glowing endorsement of The Ice Book:

The specification of Mr. Masters’ patent appeared in #53 of our journal…it will be seen that he invented a number of very ingenious apparatus, by means of which, the luxury of cold liquors, &c. may be the most readily supplied; his Ice safes and well are excellent, and his ready mode of freezing, astonishing.  It is really a disgrace to buttermen and other shopkeepers to vend their edibles in the nasty state they frequently do, and the public should demand the use by tradesmen of these safes…5

The benefits of Masters’ machine were not limited to food and drink preparation.  Ice was used in medicine to relieve headaches, fever, hemorrhaging, and, believe it or not, symptoms of rabies.6 Masters includes testimonials from MDs.  One Dr. John Ryan writes that Masters’ machine will “enable [doctors] at all seasons, whether in the crowded fever wards of the hospital, or in private practice, to obtain for the patient a necessary adjunct to medical treatment.”7

An elevation of a double-motion machine with pails (B), a2 (machinery), and P (flapdoor).  Some were made with a drawer underneath, which serves as a wine-cooler.  Plate 1 published in Thomas Masters' The Ice Book, published in 1844.

An elevation of a double-motion machine with pails (B), a2 (machinery), and P (flapdoor).  Some were made with a drawer underneath, which serves as a wine-cooler.  Plate 1 published in Thomas Masters’ The Ice Book, published in 1844.

A single-motion machine with a freezer that is rotated by turning the crank handle at the top.  Plate 3, published in Thomas Masters' The Ice Book, 1844.

A single-motion machine with a freezer that is rotated by turning the crank handle at the top.  Plate 3, published in Thomas Masters’ The Ice Book, 1844.

The machine had various interchangeable parts and could be setup for private use to make blocks of ice, flavored ice and ice cream, and to cool wine and drinks. In plate 6 below, Figures 1-3 depict the special churns needed to get the fineness and smoothness necessary to keep the flavored ice or ice cream from separating; “a proper beating-up, a process which never can be accomplished by the hand.”8 Figures 4-5, depict separate ice preserving containers for game, fish, butter, etc. Figures 6-8, depict the cold storage for beverages, such as wine and beer.

Plate 6 published in Thomas Masters' The Ice Book, 1844.

Plate 6 published in Thomas Masters’ The Ice Book, 1844.

Below, we’ve included a few tantalizing recipes from the book.  Masters supplies instructions for making plain and flavored ice creams:

Recipes for plain, pistachio, biscuit, maraschino, "nouveau" and cinnamon ice creams, from Thomas Masters' The Ice Book, 1844.

Recipes for plain, pistachio, biscuit, maraschino, “nouveau” and cinnamon ice creams, from Thomas Masters’ The Ice Book, 1844.

Recipes for pine-apple, ginger, and apricot ice cream, from Thomas Masters' The Ice Book, 1844.

Recipes for pine-apple, ginger, and apricot ice cream, from Thomas Masters’ The Ice Book, 1844.

Other recipes instruct on making flavored ices.

Wine ices, from Thomas Masters' The Ice Book, 1844.

Wine ices, from Thomas Masters’ The Ice Book, 1844.

Raspberry water ice et al., published in Thomas Masters' The Ice Book, 1844.

Raspberry water ice et al., published in Thomas Masters’ The Ice Book, 1844.

Apple water ice et al., published in Thomas Masters' The Ice Book, 1844.

Apple water ice et al., published in Thomas Masters’ The Ice Book, 1844.

masters_clarify sugar_1844_watermark

How to clarify sugar, from Thomas Masters’ The Ice Book 1844.

We found this errata slip laid in amusing:

Errata slip, Thomas Masters' The Ice Book, 1844.

Errata slip, Thomas Masters’ The Ice Book, 1844.

Another peculiar aspect of this work is the Appendix. Masters delights in supplying real-life anecdotes about ice.  Among the highlights are an ice storm in 1672 that destroyed numerous trees; an ice market in 19th-century St. Petersburg containing the bodies of thousands of frozen animals, captured inside ice; and in that same city, the Ice Palace of St. Petersburg built near the banks of the River Neva in 1739, which began to give way under its own weight before the last ice blocks were placed.9  We’ll be returning to this book again for these fascinating stories, and for the recipes within…particularly on hot summer days.


1.   Masters, Thomas. The Ice Book. London: Simpkin, Marshall, & Co., 1844.

2.  Masters, 6.

3.  National Dairy Council. Ice Cream through the Years.  Chicago: National Dairy Council, 1946.

4.  Masters, x.

5.  “Thomas Masters’ Ice Book:  The Ice Book: Being a Compendious and Concise History of Everything Connected with Ice.”  Patent Journal and Inventors’ Magazine, June 5, 1847, accessed online.

6.  Masters, pp. 180-187.

7.  Masters, pp. 185-187.

8.  Masters, pp. 194-196.

9. Masters, pp. 134-146.


Is Air-Conditioning Heating Up Our Environment?

Stan Cox image

The former Sackett & Wilhelm printers’ building in Brooklyn, the place where Willis Carrier first put air-conditioning into practice in 1902. Image Credit: Stan Cox.

This summer, we’re teaming up with our friends at The Museum of the City of New York to offer “Fast, Cool & Convenient: Meeting New Yorkers’ High Demands,” our free three-part talk series supported by a grant from The New York Council for the Humanities.

Tomorrow night (Thursday the 11th) the Academy will host the second of these three events, entitled COOL: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned City.  The speaker will be Stan Cox, Ph.D., research coordinator and climate change expert at The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas.  The event will begin at 6:30pm; please register in advance here.

This week, Dr. Cox has guest-authored “Is Air-Conditioning Heating Up Our Environment?” for the Academy’s Urban Health Matters blog.  You’ll find a link to the post here.  Enjoy, and we hope to see you tomorrow evening!

The Influence of Sunshine and Pure Air: New York City Parks and Public Health

By Emily Miranker, Project Coordinator

My first picnic of the summer was picture-book perfect. Norman Rockwell would have approved: my friends and I clustered on blankets sipping lemonade, lightly toasted by the sun and gently cooled by a breeze, occasionally tossing a stray ball back to a child or sharing tidbit of our cold chicken lunch with an eager puppy.

Central Park - Harlem Meer_EM

Central Park’s Harlem Meer.  Photo:  Emily Miranker

The belief that public parks are “a fundamental need of city life,”1  goes very deep. The father of American landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted ‑to whom (along with Calvert Vaux) New York City owes not only Central Park; but Prospect Park, Carroll Park, Fort Greene Park, the Parade Ground and Von King Park,2 commented that it was more than delight in nature that made parks so vital. There was a health benefit too. “The enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it; tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration to the whole system.”3

The Park Association of New York City (today New Yorkers for Parks) took up Olmsted’s charge after his death. Several small associations banded together in 1908 to form The Parks and Playgrounds Association of the City of New York; primarily concerned with advocating for children with no outdoor spaces in their neighborhoods. This organization merged with the Battery Park Association and the Central Park Association to become the Park Association in 1928. “Our purpose,” they declared, was to advocate park extension, defense and betterment, as parks were “essential to the mental, moral and physical well-being of city dwellers.”4  The starting point was that ever persistent New York City need: land.

Our collection boasts a wonderfully-designed pamphlet from this period soliciting support for the Park Association.  The pamphlet argues for the maintenance of city parkland, and the acquisition and development of more land dedicated to greenspace.

The pamphlet includes a colorful fold-out map. On the map, green illustrates the city’s parks as of 1927, yellow, the land purchased and intended for park use but not yet developed, and red, land recommended for purchase by the 1927 Metropolitan Conference on Parks but not yet purchased by the city.


Fold-out map published by the Park Association of New York City.  To Protect and Extend our City Parks for Posterity.  ca. 1927.


Inside of pamphlet with introductory letter from President Nathan Straus.  To Protect and Extend our City Parks for Posterity.  ca. 1927.

The pamphlet’s call to action is to “make the yellow and red green.” Indeed, many of those patches on the map have since become green.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), whose mission to create and protect land for people ensuring healthy and livable communities is much like the Park Association’s just on the national scale, spends a fair amount of time bolstering their advocacy for parks with research on the health benefits they provide. In 2006, TPL released a white paper on the health benefits of parks, underscoring the argument that parks are a wise investment for communities.5 You can read the report online for percentages, statistics, financials, and citations of peer-reviewed work; but in brief: greenways enable people to exercise, improve mental health, offer vital space for child play, and contribute to the creation of stable communities


A 2011 geographic map of the distribution of parks and playgrounds done by the Built Environment and Health research team at Columbia University.6


Map of New York City parkland (the dark green) created by The Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore rating system.7

A Fellow of The New York Academy of Medicine wrote on this very topic back in 1899. Dr. Orlando B. Douglas bemoans the lack of numbers to support his firm belief in the rejuvenating power of parks in The Relation of Public Parks to Public Health, written for the American Park and Outdoor Art Society. What he lacks in hard scientific data, he makes up for in poetic writing:


Orlando B. Douglas’ The Relation of Public Parks to Public Health, published in 1899.

While he didn’t have the same kind of data to fortify his arguments available to TPL more than a hundred years later, Douglas supports his claims that “the public park system in cities resulted in diminishing the rate of nervous disease [and] the improvement of the general health in cities”9 with testimony from twenty-one other doctors throughout the state of New York. I imagine that Dr. Douglas would have been thrilled at our ability today to quantify the beneficial effects of parks; though his pamphlet is more enjoyable reading than modern white papers.


1.  To Protect and Extend our City Parks for Prosperity. New York: Park Association of New York City; 1929.

2. “Olmsted-Designed New York City Parks,” NYC Parks. Accessed June 14, 2016.

3. Frederick Law Olmsted, “The Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees,” The Saturday Evening Post, July 18, 1868.

4. To Protect and Extend our City Parks for Prosperity. New York: Park Association of New York City; 1929.

5. “Parks,” Built Environment and Health Research Group at Columbia University. Accessed June 14, 2016.

6. “ParkScore: New York, NY,” The Trust for Public Land. Accessed June 14, 2016.

7. accessed June 14, 2016.

8.  The Relation of Public Parks to Public Health. Boston: Rockwell and Churchill Press; 1899.


Walt Whitman, ‘Manly Health,’ and the Democratization of Medicine

Today’s post is by Zachary Turpin, a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Houston. Back in April, The New York Times published an article announcing Mr. Turpin’s uncovering of a nearly 47,000-word journalistic series called “Manly Health and Training” written by the poet Walt Whitman under a pseudonym.  Learn more about Whitman’s health writings here in New York this coming Monday, July 18th at 6pm and join Zachary Turpin for his talk Up!: Manhood, Democratic Medicine, and Walt Whitman’s Secret Health Writings. The lecture is co-sponsored by The New York Public Library. Mr. Turpin will be joined by Dr. Isaac Gewirtz, Curator of The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection at The New York Public Library, for a conversation about Whitman’s interests in health and poetry.  The talk is free, but please register here.  

Near the beginning of “Manly Health and Training” (1858), Walt Whitman’s covertly published health and physiology tract, the poet says the following to the young men of America:

If you are a student, be also a student of the body, a practiser of manly exercises, realizing that a broad chest, a muscular pair of arms, and two sinewy legs, will be just as much credit to you, and stand you in hand through your future life, equally with your geometry, your history, your classics, your law, medicine, or divinity. Let nothing divert you from your duty to your body. Up in the morning early! Habituate yourself to the brisk walk in the fresh air—to the exercise of pulling the oar—and to the loud declamation upon the hills, or along the shore. Such are the means by which you can seize with treble gripe upon all the puzzles and difficulties of your student life—whatever problems are presented to you in your books, or by your professors. Guard your manly power, your health and strength, from all hurts and violations—this is the most sacred charge you will ever have in your keeping.

Whitman’s formal schooling ended at the age of 11, but he was never an anti-intellectual (quite the opposite.) Why, then, does he position exercise—and in particular, a muscular body—as more vital to readers’ lives than math, history, law, medicine, or spirituality? Is he sincere?


Daguerreotype portrait of Walt Whitman, 1853.  Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library.

These are some of the questions I will attempt to answer in my upcoming talk at The New York Academy of Medicine (July 18th). But I will begin, here, by emphasizing that Whitman almost certainly means what he says.

In the U.S. in the mid-19th century, medicine was reaching the end of a long, slow shift in its epistemological foundations. What for centuries had been a stubbornly inductive system of assumption and a priori logic, had gradually come to rely more and more upon observation and deduction. By the time Whitman was secretly writing “Manly Health,” Americans were less likely than ever to approach their bodies as perfect creations, or illness as a mere deviation from perfection. Instead, physiologically the body had gradually been recast—based on extensive physiological observation—as an imperfect thing.

Gone was the Vitruvian man, of perfect geometric proportions:


Leonardo da Vinci.  The Proportions of the Human Body According to Vitruvius (The Vitruvian Man.)  Image in the public domain.

In his stead, grew the “sciences”—which we now generally agree are pseudosciences—of physiognomy, phrenology, and eugenics. These pursuits combined complicated measurement and categorization with the belief that, based on variations of external physiology one could deduce the internal characteristics of personality, morality, and social worth. In part, such systems may be considered reactions to increasing cultural diversity in America. It is notable that the original theorists of many such systems were white; furthermore, American physiognomists and phrenologists tended to assign the highest values to classically white-European, or “Teutonic,” features: high foreheads, “noble” brows, “patrician” noses, and so on. Such values have had a deep effect on the social mores of the US—and not a few are still floating around today, as hard-to-eradicate racist rationalizations.


Books like How to Read Character: A New Illustrated Hand-Book of Phrenology and Physiognomy published in 1874 were popular during Whitman’s lifetime.


Frontispiece illustration in Joseph Simms’ Physiognomy Illustrated; or Nature’s Revelations of Character, published in 1891.

But beyond obsessions with racial and ethnic categorization, deductive reasoning had a further influence on American physiological discourse. It made it a democratic enterprise.

To put it plainly, if a body begins in imperfection, by definition it may be improved upon. The notion that the body is malleable—may be changed, manipulated, whittled down or built up—mirrors a longstanding American mythos of self-reliance, one that has its roots in the writings of everyone from John Smith and Jonathan Edwards, to J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Not to mention, Walt Whitman himself. Such a narrative of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” is still present today, and in the field of health and wellness is perhaps more powerful than ever. The popularity of extreme cardiovascular workouts, cosmetic surgery, yoga clothing lines, self-help books, and diet narratives of all types—from “paleolithic” to “blood type” to “detox” to “alkaline”—are a testament to that. (And incidentally, they all have long histories in American fad dieting—Whitman would likely recognize a number of them.)

There is a further corollary here. If the body had come to be defined by its measurement and malleability (which it was, and arguably still is), and scientific observation grew to be a more widespread, middle-class pursuit (which it had), then nearly anyone with a pen and paper could theorize, publicize, and popularize their own “answer” to physiological problems. Such answers are overwhelmingly evident in 19th-century periodical literature, which is positively overflowing with fad diets, patent medicines, calisthenic regimens, baldness cures, skin bleaches, snake oils, and self-help narratives of all types.

FinalMrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup-p1aniuvmjiubpvt7de0knl14do

Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, formulated in Maine in 1849,  contained 65 milligrams of morphine per fluid ounce.  Image from our William H. Helfand Collection of Pharmaceutical Trade Cards.


Ayer’s Cherry Pectoral, first produced by a Charleston druggist in 1865, claimed to cure coughs and contained an opium derivative.  Image from our William H. Helfand Collection of Pharmaceutical Trade Cards.


Ad published in The Practical Druggist and Pharmaceutical Review of Reviews, volume 5, number 5, 1899.

Walt Whitman’s newly rediscovered self-help narrative, “Manly Health and Training,” is unique in its importance to the history of American physiological and medical thought, but it was by no means unusual for its time. In my upcoming talk at the Academy, I look forward to talking more about its discovery, its place in Whitman’s life’s work, and its implications for American literary and medical discourses.

Anatomical Illustrations: A Round-Up from our Visualizing Anatomy Workshop

Kriota Willberg, the author of today’s guest post, explores the intersection of body sciences with creative practice through drawing, writing, performance, and needlework.

On Mondays in June, I taught a drawing class in collaboration with staff at The New York Academy of Medicine Library.

The Visualizing and Drawing Anatomy workshop was open to artists as well as first time drawers willing to be challenged by the visual complexity of the human body in a short four-week course. Using the Academy’s historical collection as reference and instruction, artists and hobbyists learned to draw the body and found inspiration in the variety of illustrations.


Historical Collections Librarian Arlene Shaner shared her knowledge about the collection with participating artists.

Working with rare books, a live model, and short presentations about the musculoskeletal system, workshop participants practiced looking through the skin to the model’s bony structures and large muscle groups.


Drawing muscular anatomy on the model, we can compare a living body to images from historical texts.

Participants drew the model’s anatomy in class, and practiced during the week by doing various homework assignments.


Artists drawing in our Hartwell Reading Room from our live model.


Whit Taylor’s in class sketches of muscular anatomy from the live model.


A second sketch by workshop participant Whit Taylor.

Debbie Rabina2016_4

Debbie Rabina’s in class sketch of the live model.


Allison White’s in class sketch of muscular anatomy from the live model.

Some homework used copied images from Vesalius and Dürer as subjects to anatomize with skeletal and muscular systems.


Susan Shaw’s homework of anatomized Dürer images.

One of the participants proposed earning some extra credit, and anatomized two characters drawn by cartoonist Josh Bayer.


Susan Shaw did a great job of re-configuring these skeletons to suit Josh Bayer’s iconoclastic drawing style.

Josh Bayer’s original cartoon can be viewed here.

Working with the historical collection as a teaching tool was very gratifying. I found new points of interest in familiar images, and developed a deeper appreciation for the artists and anatomists who generated so much rich material.

I love watching people draw.  As I watched this group work with the collection and the live model, I could observe and celebrate their growth during the course of the workshop. Witnessing the hard work, diligence, and growth of this group was truly inspiring!

17th Century Recipes, Fit for a Gala

By Arlene Shaner, Historical Collections Librarian

The New York Academy of Medicine hosted its annual fund-raising gala at the Mandarin Oriental on June 14th.  Gala attendees had the opportunity to sample two treats based on recipes from one of our favorite manuscript receipt books.

The Academy Library has 37 manuscript receipt books, most of which contain a mix of culinary, medicinal and household recipes. Some of them have been featured already on our blog (see earlier posts on Mother Eve’s Pudding, and English Gingerbread). The Recipes Project also featured an interview with Anne Garner, our Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, about the print and manuscript historical recipe books in our collection.

One of our favorite manuscripts is A Collection of Choise Receipts from the late seventeenth century. Inspired by a recipe for Black Cherry Water in the manuscript, Pietro Collina and Matt Jozwiak created a signature cocktail, the “Choise Cherry Crush,” for gala guests. You can try your hand at mixing one up if you are so inclined.

Gala Cocktail Flyer-page-001

The adapted recipe for the Choise Cherry Crush, adapted from A Collection of Choise Receipts (1680)

The drink was inspired by this 1680 recipe:

choise-recipe-cherry-water copy

“Black Cherrie Water,” A Collection of Choise Receipts, 1680.

On their way out at the end of the evening, guests received bags with a pair of almond cookies also adapted from a recipe in Choise Receipts.

Postcard with cookies

The finished  give-away almond cookies, pictured with their recipe, adapted from A Collection of Choise Receipts (1680)

There are several recipes for cookies or little cakes made with almonds in the manuscript.  My favorite, “The Lady Lowthers Receipt for to make Bean Bread” a cookie that very much resembles a macaron in texture, takes its name from the slivered almonds that look like little beans that are mixed into the dough.

choise-bean-bread-0001 copy

“Lady Lowthers Receipt, for to make Bean Bread,” from A Collection of Choise Receipts, 1680.

The recipe for Almond Bisketts that we reproduced for the gala, however, seems to be missing a crucial ingredient: almonds!

Choise original almond biskett

The front of the recipe postcard produced for our give-away cookies for the gala.

Only when examining the full page of the manuscript, on which a very similar recipe for Almond Cakes appears directly above the one reproduced on the postcard, does it become clear that the “half a pound of fflower” referred to in this recipe would be made from ground almonds.  The adapted recipe printed on the back of our card makes that clear.

Choise adapted recipe

The adapted recipe, on the back of the postcard.

If you make a batch of these tasty cookies, let us know how they turn out!  Better yet, send us a picture and we’ll post it on Instagram.

“Good Cakes Like Us Are Baked With Care and Royal Baking Powder!” (Item of the Month)

By Arlene Shaner, Reference Librarian for Historical Collections

Some of the most engaging materials in the cookery collection of the New York Academy of Medicine’s Library are late 19th and early 20th century advertising pamphlets. Small books of recipes, histories of coffee, tea, spices, and other foods, and brochures touting the health benefits of one product or another offer a window into the changing tastes of the American public, new innovations in the mass production of foods, and the development of mass market advertising. A number of these pamphlets came to us as part of NYAM Fellow Margaret Barclay Wilson’s collection of books on food and cookery, donated to the library in 1929.

RoyalBakingPowderCo_TheLittleGingerbreadMan_1923_cover_watermarkOne charming example is The Little Gingerbread Man, published in 1923 by the Royal Baking Powder Company, located at 108 East 42nd Street in New York. Written in rhyme, the pamphlet tells the story of the land of Jalapomp, where baking has been declared illegal because of the ineptitude of the cook. Poor Princess Posy, whose birthday is approaching, worries that she won’t have a cake. Alerted to the sad state of affairs by a little Flour Fairy, the Queen of Flour Folk sends Johnny Gingerbread and his friends off in a chocolate plane to save the day. Toting a tin of Royal Baking Powder and a copy of the New Royal Cook Book for the cook, the fragrant baked treats convince the king that baking powder and new recipes will set things right before they head back home to Cookery Land.

A tin of Royal Baking Powder features prominently in most of the pamphlet’s illustrations, and the cookbook appears as well. You, too, can try your hand at making some of the Royal treats, as almost every page also contains a recipe for baked goods, including one for gingerbread men. Readers of the pamphlet (or their mothers, since the book itself was clearly meant for children) could obtain free copies of the New Royal Cook Book by writing to the company as instructed on the final page of the story.

Although she is uncredited, the author of the pamphlet was probably Ruth Plumly Thompson, who wrote more than 20 volumes of the Oz series, a continuation the stories told in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its many sequels. The illustrations are attributed to Charles J. Coll.

Click the images to read the full pamphlet:

On Paré and Prosthetics

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

Saturday marks the 424th anniversary of the death of Ambroise Paré (1510–1590).

The French army barber-surgeon—and later master surgeon to four French kings and Catherine de Medici—has many accomplishments to his name.1 In 1537, he discovered that dressing gunshot wounds was more effective than the accepted practice of cauterizing them with boiling oil.2 He championed the use of ligatures to control bleeding post-amputation, which became more successful with the gradual adoption of tourniquets. He also developed an early “flap amputation,” saving skin and muscle during surgery.2,3 He authored 25 books with topics ranging from medicine and obstetrics to natural history and demonology (we hold many editions of his works).2

Paré also invented prosthetic devices, including Le Petit Lorrain, “a mechanical hand operated by catches and springs worn by a French Army captain in battle.” His above-the-knee prosthetic had properties still used today—“a locking knee and suspension harness.”1

Le Petit Lorrain. From  our 1633 edition of Les oeuvres d'Ambroise Paré.

Le Petit Lorrain. From our 1633 edition of Les oeuvres d’Ambroise Paré.

Artificial arm in use. From  our 1633 edition of Les oeuvres d'Ambroise Paré.

Artificial arm in use. From our 1633 edition of Les oeuvres d’Ambroise Paré.

Paré's  above-the-knee prosthetic. From  our 1633 edition of Les oeuvres d'Ambroise Paré.

Paré’s above-the-knee prosthetic. From our 1633 edition of Les oeuvres d’Ambroise Paré.

Perhaps more surprisingly, he also developed artificial noses:

Artificial noses. From  our 1633 edition of Les oeuvres d'Ambroise Paré.

Artificial noses. From our 1633 edition of Les oeuvres d’Ambroise Paré.

To celebrate Paré and his contribution to the field, we are featuring images of prosthetic devices throughout the centuries from items in our collection.


Dutch surgeon Pieter Adriaanszoon Verduyn (ca. 1625–1700) developed the first below-knee prosthetic that allowed for knee movement and developed one of the first “true flap amputations,”3 as described in his Dissertatio epistolaris de nova artuum decurtandorum ratione of 1696.

Verduyn's below-knee prosthetic. In Dissertatio epistolaris de nova artuum decurtandorum ratione, 1696.

Verduyn’s below-knee prosthetic. Table VII in Dissertatio epistolaris de nova artuum decurtandorum ratione, 1696.


In 1718, French surgeon Jean-Louis Petit (1674–1750) developed an effective tourniquet, allowing for more successful control of bleeding during and after amputation.3 He wrote about his achievement in Traité des maladies chirurgicales, et des opérations qui leur conviennent.


Douglas Bly’s new and important invention, advertised in pamphlets from 1859 and 1862, offered a “ball and socket ankle, which were made of an ivory ball resting within a rubber socket,” and allowed for increased mobility.4 Bly publicized his leg throughout the Civil War, but the U.S. government found it too expensive to provide to wounded soldiers. Instead, the government offered to pay the difference between a government-issued limb and Bly’s higher-end model.4

Pages one and two of Douglas Bly's "A new and important invention," 1862.

Pages one and two of Douglas Bly’s “A New and Important Invention,” 1862. Click to enlarge.

Amputated, in stockings, and pants rolled up to show the artificials. On page 24 of Douglas Bly's ""A new and important invention," 1862.

Amputated, in stockings, and pants rolled up to show the artificials. In Douglas Bly,  “A New and Important Invention,” 1862, p. 24. Click to enlarge.


Henry Heather Bigg published Artificial Limbs and Amputations in London in 1885, almost exactly thirty years after the Crimean War (1853–1856). Our library holds the 1889 edition. Bigg illustrates advances he witnessed at the Royal Hospital at Netley.

Regulation box leg and regulation boot. In Henry Heather Bigg, Artificial Limbs and Amputations, 1889, p. 110 and 111.

Regulation box leg and regulation boot. In Henry Heather Bigg, Artificial Limbs and Amputations, 1889, p. 110 and 111. Click to enlarge.

Regulation common stump arms. In Henry Heather Bigg, Artificial Limbs and Amputations, 1889, p. 122 and 123.

Regulation common stump arms. In Henry Heather Bigg, Artificial Limbs and Amputations, 1889, p. 122 and 123. Click to enlarge.


The A. A. Marks Company of New York regularly released A Manual of Artificial Limbsour library holds seven editions, published from 1906 to 1926. There are only slight variations in the volumes, most notably the mention of services for Great War veterans in the later editions. The manuals aim to convince customers of the value of the devices throughout a person’s daily tasks and career (even when performing a magic show).

"It never occurs to anyone that his lower extremities are not real." A. A. Marks Co., Manual of artificial limbs, 1906, p. 108-109.

“It never occurs to anyone that his lower extremities are not real.” A. A. Marks Co., Manual of Artificial Limbs, 1906, p. 108-109. Click to enlarge.

"I am a professional prestidigitateur." A. A. Marks Co., Manual of artificial limbs, 1906, p. 265.

“I am a professional prestidigitateur.” A. A. Marks Co., Manual of Artificial Limbs, 1906, p. 265. Click to enlarge.


Atha Thomas, associate professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Chicago School of Medicine, and Chester C. Haddan, president of the Association of Limb Manufacturers of America, co-wrote Amputation Prosthesis, published in 1945 and heavily influenced by both world wars. They conclude their first chapter: “Where amputations were once considered only as a life-saving measure they are now performed yearly by the hundreds in a deliberate attempt to substitute a useful prosthesis for a useless, unsightly, or hopelessly deformed extremity” (12).

"Below-knee prosthesis equipped with rubber foot." In Thomas & Haddan, Amputation Prosthesis, 1945, p. 97.

“Below-knee prosthesis equipped with rubber foot.” In Thomas & Haddan, Amputation Prosthesis, 1945, p. 97.

"Great dexterity is possible also with this type of mechanical hand."  In Thomas & Haddan, Amputation Prosthesis, 1945, p. 212-213.

“Great dexterity is possible also with this type of mechanical hand.” In Thomas & Haddan, Amputation Prosthesis, 1945, p. 212-213. Click to enlarge.


In 1945 the U.S. National Research Council established the Committee on Prosthetic Devices, later called the Advisory Committee on Artificial Limbs. The Committee published Human Limbs and their Substitutes in 1954, describing such progress as the electric arm, new methods of knee stabilization, and advances in suction sockets.

An electric arm. In National Research Council, Human Limbs and their Substitutes, 1954, p. 398.

A suction socket leg. In National Research Council, Human Limbs and their Substitutes, 1954, p. 665.


In Upper and Lower Limb Prostheses (1962), author William A. Tosberg includes a brief history of the materials used in prostheses: after WWII, plastics predominated. The post-WWII era also lead to professional certifications and education programs for prosthetists (no longer called “limbmakers,” as they are by Thomas and Haddan) and orthotists.

Cosmetic hand for partial amputation. In William A. Tosberg,  Upper and Lower Limb Prostheses, 1962, p. 17.

Cosmetic hand for partial amputation. In William A. Tosberg, Upper and Lower Limb Prostheses, 1962, p. 17.

Adjustable above-knee leg. In William A. Tosberg,  Upper and Lower Limb Prostheses, 1962, p. 67-68.

Adjustable above-knee leg. In William A. Tosberg, Upper and Lower Limb Prostheses, 1962, p. 67-68.


1. Thurston AJ. Paré and prosthetics: the early history of artificial limbs. ANZ J Surg. 2007;77(12):1114–9. doi:10.1111/j.1445-2197.2007.04330.x.

2. Dunn PM. Ambroise Paré (1510-1590): surgeon and obstetrician of the Renaissance. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 1994;71(3):F231–2. Available at: Accessed December 4, 2014.

3. Sellegren KR. An Early History of Lower Limb Amputations and Prostheses. Iowa Orthop J. 1982;2:13. Available at: Accessed December 4, 2014.

4. Dr. Bly’s Artificial Leg. The Shelf: Preserving Harvard’s Library Collections. 2014. Available at: Accessed December 9, 2014.

Thomas Gallaudet and the Identity of Deaf Culture

By Paul Theerman, Associate Director, Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health

Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, n.d., in Henry Barnard, Tribute to Gallaudet. (Hartford: Brockett & Hutchinson, 1852), frontispiece.

Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, n.d., in Henry Barnard, Tribute to Gallaudet. (Hartford: Brockett & Hutchinson, 1852), frontispiece.

Today’s blog post commemorates Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, born December 10, 1787. A founder of the American Asylum for Deaf-mutes (now the American School for the Deaf) in Hartford, Connecticut, Gallaudet was a pioneer educator. His name lives on through Gallaudet University of Washington, D.C., the only U.S. institution of higher learning for the deaf.1

Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc, a Parisian instructor from the French National Institute of Deaf-Mutes (Institution Nationale des Sourds-Muets à Paris), became founding figures in the creation story of deaf culture. As Oliver Sacks put it in his 1989 book, Seeing Voices, both were instrumental in nurturing American Sign Language, a rallying point for the deaf community.

The French sign system imported by Clerc rapidly amalgamated with the indigenous sign languages here—the deaf generate sign language wherever there are communities of deaf people; it is for them the easiest and most natural mode of communication—to form a uniquely expressive and powerful hybrid, American Sign Language (ASL).2

Edward Miner Gallaudet, 1864, in Maxine Tull Boatner, Voice of the Deaf: A Biography of Edward Miner Gallaudet (Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1959), opposite page 3.

Edward Miner Gallaudet, 1864, in Maxine Tull Boatner, Voice of the Deaf: A Biography of Edward Miner Gallaudet (Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1959), opposite page 3.

In the mid-19th century, American Sign Language flourished at Hartford and its daughter schools, including Gallaudet University, founded in 1864 by Thomas’s son, Edward Miner Gallaudet.3 But the educational world was divided, and some—notably Alexander Graham Bell—favored teaching the deaf to lip-read and to speak, and actively discouraged signing. At the International Congress on Education of the Deaf, held in Milan in 1880, the proponents of “oralism” carried the day. Gallaudet held out as one of the few places where sign continued, but by the 20th century, only as “signed English,” not ASL.4 Yet sign language was the common language of the deaf. It reemerged, first as a topic of linguistic study in the 1950s and 60s by Gallaudet professor William Stokoe,5 and then in art, in places like the National Theater of the Deaf, founded in 1967.6 Finally ASL became a rallying point for political action.

Gallaudet students in 1886, in Maxine Tull Boatner, Voice of the Deaf: A Biography of Edward Miner Gallaudet (Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1959), opposite page 114.

Gallaudet students in 1886, in Maxine Tull Boatner, Voice of the Deaf: A Biography of Edward Miner Gallaudet (Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1959), opposite page 114.

In 1988, Gallaudet’s board of trustees selected a hearing president, the only non-deaf candidate of the three finalists. Gallaudet students shut down the university in the “Deaf President Now” movement. ASL carried their protests. They prevailed: within a week, the new president and the chair of the trustees were both gone, and the school’s first deaf president was appointed.7 Eighteen years later, students blocked another prospective president from taking office at Gallaudet; among the reasons was that, though deaf, she lacked fluency in ASL.8 The revolution in teaching the deaf that Gallaudet started in the first decades of the nineteenth century continues to this day.


1. Henry Barnard, Tribute to Gallaudet. A Discourse in Commemoration of the Life, Character and Services of the Rev. Thomas H. Gallaudet, LL.D., Delivered before the Citizens of Hartford, Jan. 7th, 1852. With an Appendix, Containing History of Deaf-Mute Instruction and Institutions, and Other Documents (Hartford: Brockett & Hutchinson, 1852). Gallaudet passed away September 10, 1851. Gallaudet married one of his students, a deaf woman, Sophia Fowler. Among their children were The Rev. Thomas Gallaudet (1822–1902), who also married a deaf woman, Elizabeth Budd, taught at deaf institutions in New York City, and established a religious congregation for the deaf, St. Ann’s, which continues in New York. Another son was Edward Miner Gallaudet (1837–1917), founder of Gallaudet University.

2. Oliver Sacks, Seeing Voices: A Journey into the World of the Deaf (Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989), p. 23. Overall, a lucid and insightful introduction to the shifting fortunes of the deaf up to 1988, the year of Gallaudet’s “Deaf President Now” movement.

3. Edward Miner Gallaudet, History of the College for the Deaf: 1857–1907, Lance J. Fisher and David L. de Lorenzo (Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet College Press, 1983). The institution was originally chartered as the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind. Its college department was renamed for Thomas Gallaudet in 1894. In 1954 the whole institution received that name officially, which changed to Gallaudet University in 1986. See also “Gallaudet University,”, accessed December 2, 2014.

4. Sacks, p. 148; see also “Second International Congress on Education of the Deaf”,, accessed December 4, 2014. For Bell’s opposition, see: Alexander Graham Bell, The Mechanism of Speech; Lectures Delivered before the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf, to which is Appended a Paper Vowel Theories Read before the National Academy of Arts and Sciences. Illustrated with Charts and Diagrams (New York and London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1907); Gallaudet, pp. 182–83; and Maxine Tull Boatner, Voice of the Deaf: A Biography of Edward Miner Gallaudet (Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1959), chapter 13, “Fathers and Sons.” In Bell’s family were deaf persons; his telephone was intended in part as a way to help ease that limitation.

5. William Stokoe, Sign Language Structure: An Outline of the Visual Communication Systems of the American Deaf, Studies in Linguistics: Occasional Papers, No. 8 (Buffalo: Dept. of Anthropology and Linguistics, University of Buffalo, 1960). William C. Stokoe, Dorothy C. Casterline, and Carl G. Croneberg, A Dictionary of American Sign Language on Linguistic Principles (Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet College Press, 1965). See also Sacks, pp. 77–78.

6. Sacks, pp. 145–47.

7. See “Deaf President Now—25th Anniversary,”, accessed December 2, 2014. For news footage, see

8. “Gallaudet Names New President,” The Washington Post, May 3, 2006, at, accessed December 2, 2014.