Praying skeletons

The History of Medicine Division of the US National Library of Medicine is sharing selections from its collection of illustrated anatomical atlases dating from the 15th to the 20th century in a digital project called Historical Anatomies on the Web. Selections means that you mainly see high-quality images, not text, and not complete works.

The site says,

Atlases and images are selected primarily for their historical and artistic significance, with priority placed upon the earliest and/or the best edition of a work in NLM’s possession.

If you ever wanted to see illustrations from Jacopo Berengario da Carpi‘s own Isagogae breues, perlucidae ac uberrimae in anatomiam humani corporis, published in Bologna by Beneditcus Hector in 1523, here’s your chance. (Love that very exotic sounding title.) The illustrations are rather interesting constructions of how to show what a person’s insides look like: figures are standing up in a nonchalant manner and holding flaps of their skin and muscle aside so you can see inside the body!

William Cheselden‘s Osteographia, or The anatomy of the bones, published in London in 1733, also contains interesting presentations of the human skeleton. Why in the world is there a skeleton kneeling as though it is saying its prayers? Or another skeleton leaning on a larger piece of skeleton as thought it were a handsome dandy about to go to town?

I picked up the tip about this site from the Visuality blog at Carleton College, my alma mater. I find books like these utterly fascinating. Remember, this is what was available in the days of yore. No electron microscopes or 3-D imaging or other new-fangled technology!

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