Item #203 [Opera,comprising:]De venarum ostiolis. Hieronymus FABRICIUS.
[Opera,comprising:]De venarum ostiolis
[Opera,comprising:]De venarum ostiolis
[Opera,comprising:]De venarum ostiolis
The Anatomy of Fabrizio
A Crucial Precursor to Harvey’s Discovery of the Circulation of Blood
Padua, L. Pasquato, 1603

[Opera,comprising:]De venarum ostiolis.

Folio [414 x 275 mm].[Bound as issued with:]De locutione et eius instrumentis liber a Ioanne Ursino editus M.DC.I. Padua, Lorenzo Pasquato, 1603. [And as issued with:] De brutorum loquela. Padua, L. Pasquato, 1603. [And as issued with:] De formato foetu. [Padua, L. Pasquato, colophon: 1604 but preface dated 1606, see below]. Four works in one vol. II: [ii] 23 [1, blank] with printer’s device on title, 8 engraved plates (1 double-page, 7 full-page); II: [viii] 27 [1, blank] with printer’s device on title and one engraved plate; III: [vi] 27 [1, blank], with printer’s device on title; IV: [ii, engraved title and conjugate blank] pp [x] 151 [1, blank] [2, errata], with engraved title (see below) and 34 engraved plates (11 double-page, 22 full-page, and one, accompanying plate XI, quarter page. Bound in contemporary or near-contemporary French calf, gilt fillets on sides, gilt crowned arms within wreath, the escutcheons excised some time ago (French Revolution probably), replaced with blank matching calf, spines with gilt compartments, minor repairs to spine and corners. Plates IX, XIV, XXIIII, XXVIII just touched by binder’s knife on outer margin, III with outer margin frayed and paper flaw without loss of engraved surface), overall an exceptionally clean, fresh, large copy.

First editions of these four tracts (the second, De locutione, is the first folio edition; see below), including Girolamo Fabrizio’s (c. 1533-1619) two most important works, the De venarum ostiolis, and the De formato foetu. The De venarum ostiolis is one of the great rarities of anatomical literature: Fabrizio’s discovery of the venous valves directly inspired Fabrizio’s pupil and lifelong friend William Harvey. Fabrizio’s “best-known and most important medical work is his classic monograph on the venous valves ... published in Padua in 1603 ... This tract, published originally as an unbound folio pamphlet consisting of twenty-three pages of text and eight engraved plates, has been described as one of the rarest and most beautiful works in the history of anatomical illustration” (Franklin, p. 33).

“Among its plates are the well-known depictions of the surface anatomy of the veins of the forearm that William Harvey adapted to illustrate his De motu cordis (1628). Although Fabrizio did not fully appreciate the functional significance of the venous valves, his work was a crucial precursor of Harvey’s discovery. As Harvey told the British physicist and chemist Robert Boyle, it was his recognition of the significance of Fabrizio’s observations and his own realization of the function of the venous valves [to prevent backflow of deoxygenated blood] that led him to conceptualize the circulation of the blood” (Grolier, Medicine, p. 104).

Fabrizio taught anatomy at Padua, where he was successor to his teacher Falloppio, who himself had succeeded Vesalius. He was the outstanding anatomist of his time, and his knowledge is reflected in his many works. “Fabrizio spent nearly fifty years teaching in the medical faculty at Padua, from which he had graduated. He both taught and practised surgery. He was also consulted as a physician on non-surgical problems, and counted important persons as his patients, Galileo among them” (Roberts & Tomlinson, p. 249). Galileo, also a professor at the time in Padua, was a close friend of Fabrizio, and through him almost certainly met Harvey. In the De motu cordis Harvey compares the circulation of the blood to the heliocentric system, with the blood circulating around a sun-like heart at the center.

Harvey, who received his degree at Padua in 1602, had lived as a student in Fabrizio’s house, and the two developed a lifelong friendship.

Accompanying the De venarum is Fabrizio’s second major work in this group, the De formato foetu, an epochal embryological treatise that investigates not only the fetal anatomy but the whole system of gestation, nutrition, circulation, etc. “De formato foetu illustrates the way in which nature provides for the necessities of the fetus during its intrauterine life. It treats specifically of the umbilical vessels, the urachus, the fetal membranes, fetal waste products, the ‘carnea substania’ (placenta), and the uterus ... Fabrizio’s description of the umbilical cord and its vessels is accurate, as is his differentiation of the action of the umbilical vessels in various animals; he also provides an adequate description of the right and left atria of the heart, the foramen ovale and the ductus arteriosus, the vena cava, and the pulmonary vein in the foetus ...

De formato foetu ... contains thirty-four plates of great interest which illustrate, in some instances for the first time, various aspects of the anatomy of the uterus and of the fetus in humans and animals” (DSB).

These two are accompanied by his lesser tracts on the instruments of speech in humans and animals.

The De venarum ostiolis, along with Fabrizio’s other anatomical publications, was meant to be part of his monumental Totius animalis fabricae theatrum, an encyclopedic account of animal anatomy which remained unrealized. The four works issued here had a complicated publishing history, and much has been written, not always accurately, about issues and editions, which is in need of clarification.

The first tract published, De venarum ostiolis, appeared in 1603, and in its preface to Fabrizio’s German students announced his intention to produce a series of anatomical treatises, of which this was the first, in identical folio format. “I have also made it so that you, who await most eagerly of all these anatomical works of mine, may also be the first to learn that this treatise is that which shows the printer both the size of the page and the type of print of all the remaining treatises, and of that large work, which we are compiling on the structure of the animal as a whole. From this format no departure is allowed. The remaining treatises will be printed to this pattern, and thus young students, who have procured these one by one on publication, and have arranged them in orderly sequence, will be able finally to put them all into one volume and bind them properly together without any unnecessary loss of text or money.” In fact, only a very few copies were released in 1603.

The De locutione followed the same format, but it is in fact a reprint of a quarto treatise Fabrizio had published in 1601. Its companion work, De loquela brutorum, appeared in the same year. The final treatise, De formato foetu, was apparently published in 1604, but is something of a bibliographical puzzle. The De formato foetu begins with an elaborate engraved title dated 1600, but upon examination it is clear that it is in fact printed from the engraved plate used for Fabrizio’s De visione, voce, auditu, Venice, Francesco Bolzetta, 1600. For the De formato foetu, the engraved title in the cartouche below Fabrizio’s name was masked, and the new title printed separately in letterpress where the original title would have appeared (there are even further variations of this variant, some copies having the title lettered in pen, others blank, etc.). The imprint, ‘Venetiis, Per Franciscum Bolzettam, 1600’ remains the same but has been altered in pen to read 1620 (as in the Wellcome, Bodleian Library, Oxford, Emmanuel College, Cambridge copies, and others, as noted by Adelmann). This is because following Fabrizio’s death in 1619 the four tracts were put together as originally intended and issued in 1620. For some reason no title for the De formato foetu had been printed so Bolzetta adapted the engraved title from the earlier work.

To add to the confusion, the colophon is dated 1604, whereas the preface is dated 1606. Adelmann and Franklin both surmise that the ‘MDCVI’ of the preface was a mistake for ‘MDCIV’ of the colophon, but we can’t be sure, and more importantly, Adelmann offers evidence based upon watermarks that both dates are correct, one for the main body of text, and the other for the preface.

All four works, along with De formatione ovi, et pulli, which had been published posthumously in Padua in 1621 by another printer, were reissued in 1625 by Roberto and Antonio Meglietti with new title-pages, Opera physica anatomica, in the case of Roberto and Opera Anatomica in the case of Antonio. By this time, however, the De venarum ostiolis appears without its own title-page or is absent altogether. And there are further absences in the other tracts in some copies of 1625. Clearly there were very few, if any, complete copies available. ‘There are differences in the order of assembling the tracts, in the presence or absence of a separate title-page for De venarum ostiolis, in the inclusion or not of De venarum ostiolis in the table of contents on the general title-page, and finally in the presence or absence of the tract itself’(Franklin). In addition, copies sometimes lack the colophon leaf to De formato, title or prelims to De locutione, and other lacunae too numerous to detail.

Finally, the presence or absence of ‘Superiorum permissu’ on p. 22 of the De venarum ostiolis, has been suggested as indicating priority of copies without it. The ‘Superiorum permissu’, a form of approbatio or licenza, authorisation to publish, is present in the other three tracts. In some copies of the De venarum ostiolis it is absent. Again, examination shows that it wasn’t printed with the rest of the text, but stamped separately, its position on the page varying between copies when present. An examination of numerous copies, including the sheets in the 1625 edition when present, show that its presence or absence is arbitrary and cannot determine any priority; in fact, in could be argued for the opposite, but again without any evidence. There was only one original printing of the De venarum ostiolis, as here. Adelmann, in conclusion of his investigations of the printing history of De formato foetu and the other tracts, concluded “a study of them leaves no doubt that these are the original folio printings of the constitutent treatises.”

Watermarks: anchor and trident throughout apart from the dedication leaves to Marchese Renato Borromeo in the De formato foetu, which have a star with one extended arm and trident countermark, and the errata leaf which has a crown, as described by Adelmann

Provenance: old shelfmark on front pastedown; ‘Arm[and]. Goubaux Professeur d’anatomie à l’école d’Alfort’ (1820–1890) professor at the veterinary college at Alfort, and ‘Collation A.D.’, signed ‘A Dubois’ on initial blank; stamp ‘Huzard de l’Institut’ on verso of title, with pencil note ‘Cat Huzard T III n 226 Exemplaire sur grand papier’ on front pastedown. Jean-Baptise Huzard (1755–1838) was Inspector General of the national veterinary colleges and a distinguished book collector. His library contained over 40,000 books, covering natural history, agriculture, medicine, and veterinary medicine. The sale catalogue, Catalogue des Livres, Dessins et Estampes de la Bibliotheque de feu M. J.-B. Huzard... was published in three volumes in 1842

*Howard B. Adelmann, The Embryological Treatises of Hieronymus Fabricius of Aqapendente (1942), particularly IV, ‘Bibliographical Note’, pp. 122-135; K.J. Franklin, De Venarum Ostiolis 1603 of Hieronymus Fabricius of Aquapendente (1933), ‘Bibliographical note concerning the First Edition’, pp. 31-36; I. Grolier Medicine 27b (27a is Harvey’s De motu cordis); Garrison and Morton 757; Le Fanu pp. 58-59; Krivatsy 3831; Norman 750; Roberts and Tomlinson n. 60 and pp. 249-53; Waller 2886; OCLC record NLM, Huntington, Indiana, Minnesota, Philadelphia College of Physicians, Tennessee, Missouri, and Prior Medical Library; II. Krivatsy 3830; Norman 749; Waller 2885; III. Krivatsy 3825; IV. Garrison and Morton 465; Krivatsy 3827; Norman 751; Wellcome 2119.


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