By Rebecca Pou, Archivist, and Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian
For our October 18 festival, Art, Anatomy, and the Body: Vesalius 500, we exhibited items from the library’s collections showing the history of anatomical illustration. You can still visit the New York Academy of Medicine to view the exhibit in person on the ground floor. If you can’t make it, we offer a digital version below.
The exhibit on display at the New York Academy of Medicine.
In 1543, Andreas Vesalius was a 28-year-old professor of surgery and anatomy at the University of Padua, one of Europe’s best known medical schools. That year, he published his most famous work, De humani corporis fabrica, translated as On the Fabric of the Human Body. Vesalius dedicated the work to Charles V; he subsequently received the appointment of physician to the imperial family.
Working from three images from the Fabrica—a skeleton, a figure of muscles, and an illustration of the brain—this exhibit shows the many ways Vesalius’ work built on past anatomists, and exerted its influence well into the future.
Images from great works in our collection, from Magnus Hundt’s 1501 Antropologium to Dominici Santorini’s 1775 Anatomici summi septemdecimtabulae, show the evolution of artistic style and scientific understanding. Some show examples of “borrowing” Vesalius’ images and placing them in new contexts.
Click an image to view the gallery.
Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564). De humani corporis fabrica libri septum. Basel: Johannes Oporinus, 1543. Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica is a monumental work, notable for its departure from medical tradition, as well as its impressive woodcuts. As a student and young anatomist, Vesalius conducted numerous dissections. In doing so, he discovered that the second-century Greek physician, Galen—the absolute medical authority in Vesalius’ time—had made mistakes. Vesalius sought to correct these errors in the Fabrica, as well as demonstrate the value of dissection and first-hand observation in medicine. The volume includes over 200 images, depicting the smallest bones up to full figure views of human skeletons and musculature. In this skeletal figure, two ossicles of the ear, the hyoid bone, and another skull rest on the sarcophagus next to the skeleton.
Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564). De humani corporis fabrica libri septum. Basel: Johannes Oporinus, 1543. The most famous illustrations are the series of fourteen muscle men, progressively dissected. Some figures, such as this one, are flayed. Hanging the muscles and tendons from the body afforded greater detail, not only showing the parts, but how they fit together.
Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564). De humani corporis fabrica libri septum. Basel: Johannes Oporinus, 1543. The last section of the Fabrica is devoted to the brain, with illustrations more detailed than those in earlier works, such as Hundt and Dryander. Here, the dura mater has been peeled away, exposing the brain with its thin membrane and vessels.
Magnus Hundt (1449-1519). Antropologium de hominis dignitate, natura, et proprietatibus: de elementis, partibus, et membris humani corporis… Leipzig: Wolfgang Stöckel, 1501. Magnus Hundt was a physician and theologian. His Antropologium, published in Leipzig in 1501, is a philosophical and religious work on the human body containing 17 anatomical woodcut illustrations. These are not the earliest anatomical illustrations, but they were the most detailed depiction of the organs created up to that point. The simple illustrations were intended as diagrams rather than realistic representations of the body and organs, and bones and muscles were not represented. The diagram of the head shows the three intellectual functions divided among three physical parts: common sense and imagination in the first, thought in the middle, and memory in the last.
Johann (Eichmann) Dryander (1500-1560). Anatomiae, hoc est, corporis humani dissectionis pars prior… Marburg: Eucharius Cervicornus, 1537. Dryander’s work contains a series of woodcuts depicting the dissection of the brain, starting with the removal of the upper skull and continuing through the hemispheres, cerebellum, and skull base. His book also contains a diagram of the brain’s ventricles. Illustrations like these had appeared since at least the 1300s, and Dryander’s artist took inspiration from Hundt’s Antropologium. Dryander’s illustrations—including his brain figures—in turn influenced anatomical texts to come, many of which (like the Fabrica) showed the anatomy in greater detail.
Charles (Stephanus) Estienne (1504-1564). De dissectione partium corporis humani. Paris: Simon Colinaeus, 1545. While Estienne’s work was published two years after Vesalius’, it should still be considered a pre-Vesalian anatomy. Estienne completed the work in 1539; it did not get printed until 1545 due to a legal dispute. Estienne’s woodcuts come from several sources and vary greatly in quality, both artistically and anatomically. Some were clumsily altered prior to printing. In the brain dissection plate, for example, the square section showing the open cranium was added or replaced after the completion of the full woodcut. The full-scale figure makes the details in brain structure difficult to see.
Charles (Stephanus) Estienne (1504-1564). De dissectione partium corporis humani. Paris: Simon Colinaeus, 1545. While Estienne’s work was published two years after Vesalius’, it should still be considered a pre-Vesalian anatomy. Estienne completed the work in 1539; it did not get printed until 1545 due to a legal dispute. Estienne’s woodcuts come from several sources and vary greatly in quality, both artistically and anatomically.
Eucharius Rösslin (d. 1526). The byrth of mankynde, otherwyse named The womans booke. [London: Tho. Ray[nalde]], 1545. The byrth of mankind is an English translation of Eucharius Rösslin’s Rosegarten, an obstetrical text first published in German in 1513. Widely read and translated, the Rosegarten was written for midwives and contains the earliest obstetrical woodcuts. The first English edition, based on a Latin translation, appeared in 1540. The second English edition was revised by the physician Thomas Raynalde in 1545. Raynalde incorporated the work of other authors, including illustrations and descriptions from Vesalius’ Fabrica, such as these torsos.
Thomas Geminus (d. 1562). Compendiosa totius anatomie delineatio… London: Thomas Geminus, 1559. Geminus’ Compendiosa totius anatomie delineatio includes copies of many of Vesalius’ illustrations with simplified landscapes, including the one seen here. The Compendiosa was intended as a text for British physicians to use as guidance when dissecting corpses of criminals, a practice legalized by King Henry VIII in 1540. The first edition of the book, published in Latin in 1545, gives Vesalius an acknowledgement, but the two English versions that followed—including the 1559 edition, from which this image comes—do not.
Godefridus Govert Bidloo (1644-1713). Anatomia humani corporis… Amsterdam: J. à Someren, 1685. Bidloo’s Anatomia humani corporis includes 105 anatomical copperplate engravings, recognized as some of the finest illustrations of the Baroque period. Most anatomical books published in the late 16th and 17th centuries emulated the Vesalian style, with animated figures set in picturesque landscapes. Bidloo and Gerard de Lairesse, the artist, took this approach with their skeletal figures, such as this one contemplating an hourglass and the inevitability of time. The rest of the plates departed from this tradition, being realistic drawings of dissections. Table 5 shows the skull and scalp in the first figure and the dura mater and cerebrum in the second.
Godefridus Govert Bidloo (1644-1713). Anatomia humani corporis… Amsterdam: J. à Someren, 1685. Bidloo’s Anatomia humani corporis includes 105 anatomical copperplate engravings, recognized as some of the finest illustrations of the Baroque period. Most anatomical books published in the late 16th and 17th centuries emulated the Vesalian style, with animated figures set in picturesque landscapes. Bidloo and Gerard de Lairesse, the artist, took this approach with their skeletal figures, such as this one contemplating an hourglass and the inevitability of time. The rest of the plates departed from this tradition, being realistic drawings of dissections.
Giovanni Domenico Santorini (1681-1737). Anatomici summi septemdecim tabulae. Parma: Regia Typographia, 1775. Santorini, a physician and professor of anatomy in Venice, made extensive discoveries during his lifetime, most notably identifying the accessory pancreatic duct. Santorini’s student, Michael Girardi, compiled Anatomici summi septemdecim tabulae and published it 38 years after his mentor’s death, including Santorini’s previously unpublished anatomical drawings and observations. The discoveries shared in this work include what is now called Santorini’s plexus, an important contribution to pelvic anatomy. He also described and illustrated facial structures, as seen here, including novel findings still useful to medical professionals. The book is considered one of the best anatomical works of the 18th century due to the high quality of its images and descriptions.
On May 1 and 2, The New York Academy of Medicine and the Drug Policy Alliance co-hosted a conference, The LaGuardia Report at 70. Featuring more than 25 speakers, including historians, policy experts, political figures, and community organizers, the conference provided a forum to understand the state of marijuana regulation and enforcement in New York and to see the current debates in the context of over a hundred years of public policy fights around drugs and drug regulation in the United States.
For the conference, we created a small exhibit featuring facsimiles of materials from the New York Academy of Medicine’s Committee on Public Health Relations archive, as well as the original 1944 report. We are pleased to share the images with you on our blog.
In 1938, at the request of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, The New York Academy of Medicine’s Committee on Public Health Relations formed a subcommittee to study marijuana use in New York City. As you can see in this letter to Mayor LaGuardia from the Academy’s president, James Alexander Miller, M.D., the subcommittee determined a more extensive study was necessary. They recommended two approaches, a sociological study of marijuana use in the city and a clinical investigation of its physiological and psychological effects. (Click to enlarge.)
In the sociological study, six police officers acted as social investigators. They ventured into places where marijuana might be available and socialized with people in order to find out who was using marijuana and how it was being distributed. Olive J. Cregan was one of the investigators. This page from her report describes some of her interactions, including one in a speakeasy that she called “the worst dive I have ever seen.” While they learned a great deal about marijuana use in the city, one of the study’s conclusions was that “the publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marihuana smoking in New York City is unfounded.”
This report from the clinical team gives a sense of the reputation marijuana had at the time of the study, a view that the study eventually countered. There was great concern about marijuana’s potential for addiction and its role in crime. The study found little basis for its bad reputation. (Click to enlarge.)
The LaGuardia report, formally titled The Marihuana Problem in the City of New York, was published in 1944.
Medal issued to commemorate Louis Pasteur’s 70th birthday, 1892.
Medals, amulets, badges and prizes play many roles, whether acknowledging significant figures in their fields, commemorating events, or giving insights into beliefs about health. Over 275 medical-themed items from the collection of Dr. Ira Rezak, currently on display at the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library at the Columbia University Medical Center, provide a rich and varied exploration of these roles. The objects in the exhibit range from a 70th birthday medal for Louis Pasteur (1892) to a 16th century German amulet used to ward off the bubonic plague, a Canadian medal from 1994 celebrating the role of white mice in medical science, and the New York Academy of Medicine medal by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, among many other medals representing medicine in New York.
Medal of the New York Academy of Medicine, 1928, by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth.
The exhibition, Mirroring Medicine, is drawn from Dr. Rezak’s medal collection, formed over 50 years, and one of the most important in private hands. Dr. Rezak is a NYAM Fellow and Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. The exhibition is on view until January 11, 2013 and is open from 7am to 9pm on Lower Level 2 of the Columbia University Medical Center’s Hammer Health Sciences Center. Individuals without Columbia University or New York-Presbyterian Hospital identification should make arrangements to visit the show by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Arlene Shaner, Acting Curator and Reference Librarian for Historical Collections
A photography exhibit by NYAM Fellow Jeffrey M. Levine, M.D., is on display through September 21, 2012 at the National Arts Club (15 Gramercy Park South). The exhibit, The Changing Face of Aging Across America, is the first stop in a year-long tour of these images, which will be shown in six teaching hospitals around the country.
Granny Peace Brigade in Times Square. Photo: Jeffrey M. Levine, M.D.
Dr. Levine is a gerontologist and wound care specialist with a longstanding interest in photography. He has studied at the Art Students League, the International Center for Photography and the School of Visual Arts. For the past two decades he has been documenting the experience of aging in America through photographs that celebrate the activities and communities of aging individuals, but also remind us of the many challenges faced by this population, our largest growing demographic.
Runners in the Over 70 Race on Fifth Avenue. Photo: Jeffrey M. Levine, M.D.