“The Birth of Modern Anatomy” (PMM)
De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri septem…
Basel, Ioannes Oporinus, 1543
Folio (399 x 261 mm) 6 un.ll. including engraved title page, 663 pp. (misnumbered 659) and 18 un.ll. (leaves 313 and 353-354 are on double page). Modern gilt vellum, bound to style, covers gilt, flat spine
350 000 
Garrison-Morton, 375; Cushing, 79-88; Heralds of Science, 122; Printing and the Mind of Man, 71; Horblit, 98; Grolier, Medicine, 18A; Norman, 2137.

In stock

First edition of this epochal book.

“With De humani corporis fabrica, published when he was only twenty-nine years old, Vesalius revolutionized not only the science of anatomy but how it was taught. Throughout this encyclopaedic work on the structure and workings of the human body, Vesalius provided a fuller and more detailed description of human anatomy than any of his predecessors, correcting errors in the traditional anatomical teachings of Galen… The Fabrica also broke new ground in its unprecedented blending of scientific exposition, art and typography. Although earlier anatomical books, such as those by Berengario da Carpi had contained some notable anatomical illustrations, they had never appeared in such number or been executed in such minute precision as in the Fabrica, and they had usually been introduced rather haphazardly with little or no relationship to the text… The book remains the masterpiece of Johannes Oporinus of Basel, one of the most widely learned and iconoclastic of the so-called ‘scholar-printers’, whose success with this book apparently caused Vesalius to entrust to Oporinus all of his alter publications… Although the illustrations have traditionally been attributed to an associate of Titian, Jan Stephan von Calcar who drew and possibly engraved the three woodcuts of skeletons in Vesalius first series of anatomical charts, Tabulae antomicae sex (1538), there is no reliable basis for this attribution. Modern scholarship attributes the Fabrica woodcuts only to an unknown artist or artists in the school of Titian. Vesalius commissioned the illustrations and supervised their production” (Norman). “It cannot be emphasized too often that this was an epochal book. The beautiful woodcuts, executed under the supervision of Vesalius by the artists Jan Stephan van Calcar, student of Titian, are famous for their beauty, accuracy and lavishness of detail and number. It was E. Jackschath of Tilsit who pointed out that the background scenes of the ‘muscle men’ illustrations are, when collected into a continuum, a dioramic replica of the Paduan countryside of the time of Vesalius… This first edition of the Fabrica is the heart of any library of medical history” (Heirs of Hippocrates). “Vesalius, born in Flanders but of German extraction, was the most commanding figure in European medicine after Galen and before Harvey…. The young Vesalius, with an iconoclastic zeal characteristic of the sixteenth-century, and a forcible style all his own, endeavoured to do all that Galen had done and to do it better. The result was ‘The Structure of the Human Body’, published when he was twenty-nine; a complete anatomical and physiological study of every part of the human body, based on first-hand examination and his five years’ experience as public prosector in the medical school at Padua… Galen was not merely improved upon: he was superseded; and the history of anatomy is divided into two periods, pre-Vesalian and post-Vesalian. The Fabrica, a handsomely printed folio, is remarkable for its series of magnificent plates, which set new technical standards of anatomical illustration, and indeed of book illustration in general… No other work of the sixteenth century equals it, though many share its spirit of anatomical enquiry. It was translated, reissued, copied and plagiarized over and over again and its illustrations were used or copied in other medical works until the end of the eighteenth century” (PMM).

Sympathetically washed, title with small restoration, portait restored and with strenghtened inner margin, quires 2C-2D, 2L-2M with tears and occasional loss of text with some letters restruck in black ink, last leaf (colophone), restored and with hole in white margin filled in.