Vesalius changes how we see ourselves

Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564)
Andreæ Vesalii suorum De humani corporis fabrica librorum epitome
Basel: Ioanne Oporini, 1543

The publication of Vesalius’s Seven books on the fabric of the human body and its companion Epitome represents a critical moment in the revival of anatomical study. Vesalius used the work to promote the value of dissection, a skill he learned as a student in Paris and practised as a demonstrator and lecturer in surgery at the University of Padua. The care Vesalius invested in the production of these books was a key factor in establishing their authority. The images played a critical role, complementing in vivid detail the anatomical descriptions in the text. The innovative detachable cut-out manikin in this copy has been extraordinarily well preserved. Each layer is mounted onto waste parchment for reinforcement and the whole is meticulously hand-coloured to distinguish the body parts.

Cambridge Professor of the History of Science Sachiko Kusukawa discusses this remarkable work in a free-to-download iPad app, which includes the whole text and its illustrations in zoomable images.

CCF.46.36, manikin

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