Spiegel’s Ten books on the Fabric of the human body

Adriaan van den Spiegel, De humani corporis fabrica libri decem, Frankfurt a. M.: Impensis & Caelo Matthaei Meriani, 1632, frontispiece, intaglio, plate size 18.4 x 14.8 cm, K.9.8.

Adriaan van den Spiegel (1578-1625), from a Brussels family of surgeons, studied at Padua under Girolamo Fabricius of Aquapendente (1537-1619) and Giulio Casserio, and after practicing medicine in Moravia, returned to Padua, succeeding Casserio as the professor of anatomy and surgery. His anatomical work was published posthumously and contained plates designed by Casserio. This frontispiece is full of references to the Fabrica, starting with the title: Ten books on the fabric of the human body by Adrian Spiegel of Brussels, Knight of St Mark, one time first professor of anatomy and surgery at the University of Padua, supplied with 98 very elegant engravings, never before seen. Vesalius’s Seven books on the fabric of the human body was now expanded to ten books.

At the top centre of Spiegel’s frontispiece, seated in front of a drapery bearing the word ‘anatomia’, is the female personification of anatomy, holding a mirror and a skull, suggesting perhaps self-knowledge and mortality. To her left is the personification of ‘diligence’ holding instruments in her hands, and to the right is ‘ingenium’ with a scepter and sun, perhaps signifying dominion of knowledge over darkness of ignorance. Flanking the book title held up by two putti are figures recognizable from the Fabrica, the skeleton with a spade, and a myological figure with one foot placed forward. At the base of the left-hand column is a monkey and a pig to the right, animals that were dissected by Galen as well as Vesalius. In the middle of the floor is a table with ‘anatomical instruments’, again a reminder of the table full of instruments Vesalius had shown.

This frontispiece was designed by Odorato Fialetti (1573-1638), a painter and printmaker who had apprenticed with Giovanni Battista Cremonini at Bologna and also worked with Tintoretto at Venice. Francesco Valegio, an print-maker and printer who was active in Venice between 1598 and 1627, engraved the design.