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Vitali Isaev
Vitali Isaev

The Illustrations From The Works Of Andreas Ves...


In 1538, Vesalius wrote Epistola, docens venam axillarem dextri cubiti in dolore laterali secandam (A letter, teaching that in cases of pain in the side, the axillary vein of the right elbow be cut), commonly known as the Venesection Letter, which demonstrated a revived venesection, a classical procedure in which blood was drawn near the site of the ailment. He sought to locate the precise site for venesection in pleurisy within the framework of the classical method. The real significance of the book is his attempt to support his arguments by the location and continuity of the venous system from his observations rather than appeal to earlier published works. With this novel approach to the problem of venesection, Vesalius posed the then striking hypothesis that anatomical dissection might be used to test speculation.




The illustrations from the works of Andreas Ves...



Andreas Vesalius, also called Andries van Wesel, studied anatomyduring the sixteenth century in Europe. Throughout his career, Vesaliusdissected numerous human cadavers, and took detailed notesand drawings of the human anatomy. Compiling his research, Vesalius publishedan anatomy work titled De humani corporis fabrica libri septem ("On thefabric of the human body in seven books"). The Fabrica includedillustrations of male and female anatomy. It also included diagrams of uteruses with intact fetuses.Vesalius was one of the first physicians to accurately record and illustratehuman anatomy based on his findings fromautopsies and dissections, which led to improved understanding of the human body andenhanced surgery techniques.


Two weeks after publishing theFabrica, Vesalius published De humani corporis fabrica librorum epitome("Abridgement of the Structure of the Human Body"). The Epitomeconsisted of eleven woodblock prints that included illustrations of theskeleton, muscles, nerves, veins, and arteries and an illustration fromthe Fabrica. The Epitome differed from the Fabrica in that the muscleswere drawn in layers, from superficial to deep, in their natural restingposition, which assisted surgeons in operating and treating wounds.


While at his post as professor of anatomy and surgery at the University of Padua, Andreas Vesalius spent much of 1542 preparing his magnum opus, the De Fabrica, performing dissections (sometimes in his home) and working with an artist (or more likely several artists) to create the woodcut illustrations for which the book is so well known. Vesalius was exacting in his methods of dissection and investigation of the cadaver. He would perform a dissection and position the cadaver so that important structures were highlighted and visible; he even describes in De Fabrica his use of nooses and cords to hold the cadavers in place. It is unknown, however, who the artist or artists were; it is likely that some of the images were first sketched by Vesalius himself and a final draft created by a trained artist (these are not the work of an amateur). Later, a craftsman, most likely in Venice, carved the images in relief onto blocks of pear wood. Correspondence between Vesalius and his publisher Johannes Oporinus describe the packing and transport of the woodblocks across the Alps from Venice to Basel, but no mention is made of the artists who created them.


A few days before De humani corporis fabrica libri septem publication, in 1543, from Oporinus' office at Basel, a very large but not too bulky in-folio was published, which Andreas Vesalius, the author; offered as the Epitome or Summary of the seven Fabricae books. This work, written in latin, is divided into two parts: the first of them includes six chapters describing the human body, the second is composed of eleven anatomical plates with indices; the reader is invited to cut up the last two and stick them onto the preceding, so as to make a human three-dimensional figure. This method inserts the work in a modern conception of anatomical learning. Vesalius involves himself patiently gives many explanations for learning the body in dissection order through plates and text as well. But these plates--and most of them are different from those in the Fabrica-, are not simple illustrations, but play an active part in anatomical knowledge acquisition, just as the text does, but through a different access. We will attract your attention on this originality, often ignored, of the Epitome.


The illustrations from the works of Andreas Vesalius of Brussels : with annotations and translations, a discussion of the plates and their background, authorship and influence, and a biographical sketch of Vesalius. By J.B. de C.M. Saunders and Charles D. O'Malley. New York : Dover Publications Inc., 1973. Anatomy qA13 1950-V


The seventh and final book provides a description of the anatomy of the brain, accompanied by a series of detailed illustrations revealing the successive steps in its dissection. Until the time of Vesalius, illustrations of the brain and any accompanying text usually stressed the localization of intellectual activities in the ventricles, with perception in the anterior ventricles, judgment in the middle, and memory in the posterior. Sensation and motion were considered the work of animal spirit produced in a fine network of arteries at the base of the brain, the rete mirabile. The existence of the rete mirabile in the human brain had been questioned by Berengario da Carpi. It was now firmly denied by Vesalius, who showed the belief in this organ to have been the result of dissection of animals, since such an arterial network does in fact exist in ungulates. Vesalius was also the first to state that the ventricles had no function except the collection of fluid. Moreover, he denied that the mind could be split up into the separate mental faculties hitherto attributed to it. As a corollary he intimated that although animal spirit affected sensation and motion, it had nothing at all to do with mental activity-in short he suggested a divorce between the physical and mental animal. The discussion of the brain is concluded by a chapter on the procedure to be followed for its dissection and by a final, separate section on experiments in vivisection, derived and developed mostly from experiments described by Galen. The separate treatment of this latter material indicated a recognition of physiology as a discipline distinct from anatomy.


De Humani Corporis Fabrica represents an extraordinary intellectual accomplishment that combines anatomical investigation, artistic ingenuity, woodcut craftmanship, and typographical expertise. Vesalius's intention was to give a most detailed and reliable account of the human body, an account purged of previous errors, based on direct reference to cadavers, and corroborated by the use of animal vivisection and comparative anatomy. The Fabrica can be viewed as both the foundation of modern anatomy and as a reference handbook for those practitioners who could not have direct access to dissection material. The anatomical illustrations were in all likelihood the product of artists and draftsmen from Titian's studio. Vesalius planned the enterprise and directed the execution, and it can be assumed that he had some share in the actual draftsmanship.


Classic Text. Vesalius went to considerable expense and effort, hiring artisans from the foremost shops in Venice to supply the ample illustrations in his book, which set a new standard both for the quality of anatomical illustration and for medical pedagogy. Vesalius keyed the parts of the body in these illustrations to their descriptions in the text, carefully linking prose explanation to pictorial representation. The result was an enormously sought-after and widely emulated book that is among the most valuable in medical history collections today.


Vesalius's commitment to actual observing was much in evidence in his edition of some of Galen's works in 1540 but especially in his epoch-making De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (Seven Books on the Construction of the Human Body), published in 1543 in Basel. Book 1 on the bones was generally correct but represented no major advance. Book 2 on the muscles was a masterpiece. Book 3 on blood vessels was exactly the opposite. Somewhat better was book 4 on the nerves, a great advance on everything written on the topic before, but it was largely outmoded a century later. Excellent was his treatment in book 5 of the abdominal organs. Book 6 dealt with the chest and neck, while book 7 was devoted to the brain. Some of the woodcut illustrations of the Fabrica are among the best of 16th-century drawings and probably were executed by Jan Stephan van Calcar. Vesalius's own drawings were of moderate value. The revolutionary aspect of the work was the dominating role of observation as the very foundation of progress in anatomy. The importance of the large folio was immediately recognized by the fact that almost simultaneously with the original an epitome of it was published.


Andreas Vesalius was the founder of modern human anatomy. Before his time, medical illustrations served more to decorate a page than to teach human structure. Humans were often shown in squatty froglike postures with only crude representations of the locations and relationships of the internal organs. Often the figures were surrounded by signs of the zodiac, as astrologers thought each constellation influenced a particular body organ. Medical professors taught from an elevated chair, the cathedra, reading dryly in Latin from such ancient authorities as Roman physician Galen, while a low-ranking barber-surgeon removed organs from a rotting corpse and held them up for the medical students to see. Neither embalming nor cadaver refrigeration were yet known to Western medicine, and the professors considered it beneath their dignity to touch the foul cadaver.


Vesalius revolutionized the teaching of medicine. A native of Brussels, educated at Paris and Padua, he taught medicine at the University of Padua in Italy. Vesalius broke with tradition and personally dissected cadavers with his students. He soon learned that the anatomy described by Galen was highly inaccurate, and he commissioned artists from the studio of Italian painter Titian to render more accurate illustrations. When other anatomists began plagiarizing these illustrations, Vesalius had them published in a seven-volume work, De Humani Corporis Fabrica (On the Structure of the Human Body), in 1543. This was the first accurate atlas of human structure, and ushered in the era of modern human anatomy. 041b061a72


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