Articulating a skeleton

Andreas Vesalius, De humani corporis fabrica libri septem, Basel: ex. off. J. Oporini, 1543, p. 62, initial P, woodcut 3.7 x 3.7 cm, N*.1.2(A).

Vesalius recommended that the bones should be reassembled immediately after cleaning before they hardened. Awls were used to pierce bones and to make holes for dowel-type joints, and bones were joined up using wires from the feet up. The initial P shows this starting point of articulation.

Vesalius recommended that the feet should be fastened onto a circular board with a hole in the centre for an axle peg so that the whole box could revolve. Another hole is made near the circumference of the circle into which a rod that would take the weight of the structure could be inserted. This rod could be in the form of a spear, a javelin, a trident, a scythe, or as in Vesalius’s case, a shovel.

A skeleton Vesalius articulated in Basel while he was supervising the printing of his book has survived in the Anatomisches Museum in Basel.