Les Portraicts anatomiques de toutes les parties du corps humain…. Andreas VESALIUS, Jacques GRÉVIN.
Les Portraicts anatomiques de toutes les parties du corps humain…
Les Portraicts anatomiques de toutes les parties du corps humain…
Les Portraicts anatomiques de toutes les parties du corps humain…
The First Engraved Anatomical Illustrations Ever Produced
Bound With:
Among The Earliest “Modern” Anatomical Illustrations
In Woodcut
Paris, Wechel, 1569.

Les Portraicts anatomiques de toutes les parties du corps humain….

(4) ff, 106 pp, (1) ff with printer’s device on verso, plus 40 engraved full-page plates.

ESTIENNE, Charles & RIVIÈRE, Estienne de la.
La Dissection des parties du corps humain… Paris, de Colines, 1546. (8) ff, 405 pp, (1 integral blank), including 64 full-page woodcuts. Folios, bound in early, possibly contemporary, reversed calf, covers somewhat worn, extremities with careful restoration. All pages neatly ruled in red/brown ink. With early ownership inscription scored on first tp. and several other inscriptions principally on rear paste down and verso of final blank; occasional marginal handsoiling; a few minor marginal tears neatly mended. Pages generally very clean. Attractive genuine copies of both works.

A handsome sammelband of the two most important anatomical works of the French Renaissance, both in their first French editions. Charles Estienne’s superbly-illustrated Dissection des Parties du Corps Humain is bound here after Jacques Grévin’s adaptation of Vesalius’ De Humani Corporis Fabrica, being the first appearance of Vesalius in the French language. Grévin’s work famously employs a set of 40 copper plates engraved and printed in London by Geminus for the publisher Wechel’s Parisian ventures. Vesalius complained of Geminus’ unauthorized reproductions, but it is generally agreed by historians that they proved invaluable in the dissemination of Vesalian anatomy in vernacular translations such as the present one. Together, these two spectacularly illustrated works present the pinnacle of 16th century anatomical illustration, each in a different form -- the woodcut (Estienne) and the copper engraving (Vesalius) -- providing a vivid picture of the state of the art at the heart of the sixteenth century. 

Grévin’s text, presented in two columns, is as clear as the engraved illustrations themselves, which closely follow Vesalius’ original woodcuts. Alongside brief discursive chapters explaining the anatomy and bodily functions, Grévin follows Vesalius in providing a detailed legend to each illustration, explaining the precise role of each muscle or bone in the human body. Overall, the structure is highly organized and eminently practical, and probably served much the same audience as Vesalius’ German Epitome – the ‘unlatined’ barber-surgeons who were nevertheless responsible for the majority of surgical procedures in the Early Modern era. The engraved plates themselves were "as influential as the woodcuts in the development of anatomical illustration" (Mortimer, Harvard French 541). They were originally cut for a London publication of 1545 (see below), and were later re-used, with 3 plates having been amended by cutting away sections and re-inserting a new figure, in the Latin and present French editions published by Wechel. Although these latter two editions were printed at Paris, the plates appear by their watermarks to have been printed in London and the sheets sent to Paris, presumably being easier and less costly than sending the copper-plates themselves to Paris (cf. Mortimer).

Vesalius’ own publications, while monumental in scope and execution, failed to herald the revolution in anatomical teaching methods and surgery we associate with him today. De Humani Corporis Fabrica was never directly translated into any modern European language during Vesalius’ lifetime, and it was only the abbreviated Epitome which enjoyed a (today exceedingly rare) vernacular German edition published the same year as the Latin original. More successful and influential in the dissemination of Vesalian anatomy were the works of Thomas Geminus, a Flemish refugee living in London and a former roommate of Vesalius at Padua. In 1545 Geminus published some of the earliest engravings ever produced in England: a set of 40 folio plates engraved after Vesalius’ own striking woodcuts in De Fabrica. Despite Vesalius’ protestations, Geminus’ illustrations do show artistic and anatomical fidelity to the originals, although Geminus dispensed with the scenic backdrops employed in Vesalius’ woodcuts. Geminus’ Compendiosa totius Anatomie delineatio enjoyed numerous Latin and English editions, all very rare, and his plates were soon copied for use in German Vesalian anatomies as well (Anatomia Deutsch, 1551). Finally, in 1564 André Wechel published an adaptation of Vesalius using Geminus’ original plates in Paris accompanied by a commentary on Vesalian anatomy by the French humanist Jacques Grévin, who may have met Geminus in London where he spent several years.  This work was translated into French in 1569 (offered here).

In fascinating juxtaposition to Grevin’s fine engravings are the woodcut figures in Charles Estienne’s Dissection des parties du corps humain designed by Estienne de la Rivière, a famous French anatomist of his time and a contemporary rival of Vesalius. The present example of this work is very large, measuring 15 11/16” x 10”, ruled in red. Its huge margins show off the illustrations to spectacular effect.

While unable to compete with the realism offered by Geminus’ Vesalian engraving, Rivière’s woodcuts show decidedly more artistic flair, often situating his partially dissected specimens in remarkably detailed Renaissance townscapes or gardens. The lobotomized figure on p. 261 reclines uncomfortably in his large chair with his back to the viewer, amidst a perspective view of the inside of a small cottage with a round porthole and various day-to-day objects on display on shelves; the top half of his head rests casually on a table nearby. A series of figures in the Third Book are devoted to obstetrics and other aspects of female anatomy, whose subjects appear nude but in the surroundings of a nobleman’s house, reclining on mountains of plump, tasseled cushions – scenes inspired, according to Carlino, by a series of engraved erotic figures by Périno del Vaga published in 1527. See Norman Cat. #728 for the “interesting connection between pornography and anatomy” in this work.

Rivière’s images, accompanied by the text of the esteemed physician Charles Estienne, were in fact prepared far earlier (1539) than Vesalius’ De Fabrica and in many ways rightfully bear claim to the birth of modern anatomical illustration. “Had De dissectione been published in 1539, it would have been the first work to show detailed illustrations of dissection in serial progression, the first to discuss and illustrate the total human body, the first to publish instructions on how to mount the skeleton, and the first to set the anatomical figures in a fully developed panoramic landscape” (Norman). Unfortunately the two collaborators became involved in a lengthy lawsuit which pushed the publication of the Dissection des parties du corps humain back to 1546 (the Latin edition appearing in 1545). Nonetheless, Estienne's work still contained numerous original contributions to anatomy, including the first published illustrations of the whole external venous and nervous systems, and descriptions of the morphology and purpose of the “feeding holes” of bones, the tripartate composition of the sternum, the valvulae in the hepatic veins and the scrotal septum. In addition, the work's eight dissections of the brain give more anatomical detail than had previously appeared. Estienne’s preface to the present work is also of interest for its pointed consideration of the role of illustration in anatomy textbooks (cf. Carlino, 19).

Both the Latin and French Grévin adaptations of Vesalius are rare in census, but the French is slightly rarer. OCLC shows Columbia and Yale only holding the present work; the Latin edition (1565) is held by Cornell, Yale, Huntington, Columbia, and Harvard. Estienne’s Dissection des parties du corps humain is more widely held institutionally.

* Cushing, Vesalius 130; Durling 2175 & 1391; Mortimer, Harvard French 541 (Latin ed) & 213; Garrison-Morton 378; Heirs of Hippocrates 256; Norman 728 (Latin ed). Cf also Carlino, Paper Bodies; Kellett, "Perino del Vaga et les illustrations pour l'anatomie d'Estienne," Aesculape 37 (1955), pp. 74-89; and Fossard, “Estienne de La Rivière, anatomiste précurseur de la Renaissance, malheureusement oublié” Histoire des Sciences médicales 23 (1989), pp. 261-6.

Price: $75,000.00

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