- Museum number
Set of fourteen initials with putti performing medical procedures and anatomical studies; including the initial letters A, D, E, F, H, I, L, O, P, Q, R, S, T and W; illustrations to the first edition of Andreas Vesalius "De humani corporis fabrica libri septem" (Basel: 1543). c.1543
- Production date
Height: 37 millimetres (per block, approx.)
Width: 35 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- For impressions of two title-pages see also 1895,1031.993-994.
In an essay on the initials, Samuel Lambert writes that there are seventeen designs for these small initials in the first edition (including two versions of 'L'), as well as larger designs which were used in the second edition of 1555, where the smaller initials were re-cut, usually using the same design but with adult figures in place of the children. The first edition set has a border with a double line, the second a single line. (Samuel W. Lambert, 'The initial letters of the anatomical treatise, De Humani Corporis Fabrica, of Vesalius', in T. A. Malloch (ed.), 'Three Vesalian Essays to accompany the Icones Anatomicae of 1934' (New York: Macmillan, 1952), pp. 1-24). Lambert identifies the scenes from the British Museum's set as follows.
A. Catheterisation of a man for retention of urine; one of the assistants holding a bowl.
D. Investigation of a head which has been removed from the body (see O).
E and F. Treatment of dislocated or fractured bones of the leg using a box fitted with pulleys and windlass (Lambert identifies this as a glossocomum).
H. Treatment of a head disease, perhaps by trephination but more likely through cauterisation by the method of holding a cold metal plate with holes against the skin, then applying the hot iron to this, to prevent excessive burning (Lambert refers to the instrument as 'the plate').
I. Unclear. Either catheterisation of a male patient, or obstetric delivery, possibly through a labour chair, one of the assistants holding a dish to receive the placenta.
L. Obtaining a hanged body for dissection; note a priest looking on at right.
O. An executioner handing over a head after a beheading (see also D).
P. Assembling a mounted skeleton (as recommended to students by Vesalius, who had constructed his own jointed skeleton which survives to the present day in Basel).
Q. Dissection or vivisection of a pregnant dog, in which a foetus is being removed. Vesalius mentions the vivisection of a pregnant dog in order to study the foetus in the De Fabrica, in the last chapter on vivisection.
R. Dissection of the head of an ox, to study the eyeball.
S. Unclear, but perhaps draining the blood from a dog prior to dissection.
T. Killing a dog by hanging and then clubbing it, in order to study its comparative anatomy.
V. Phlebotomy, or blood-letting.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2009 Aug-Dec, BM P&D, Sixteenth-century anatomical prints
- Associated titles
Associated Title: De Humani Corporis Fabrica libri septem (Basel, 1543)
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number