“For my part I deem those blessed to whom, by favour of the gods, it has been granted either to do what is worth writing of, or to write what is worth reading; above measure blessed those on whom both gifts have been conferred”–Pliny the Elder.
Johannes de Kehtam’s Fasciculus Medicine (printed in Venice in 1500) was the first anatomy book to be printed with illustrations.
Ketham was described as a German doctor living in Italy and may well have been Johann von Kerchheim, a German practising surgery and medicine in Venice during 1470), and who wrote a series of tracts on various aspects of medicine which were then collected into this single bound volume.
The illustrations are spectacular and to me have a very modern sensibility in their mid-Renaissance woodcut legacy–the look very clear and concise, are well proportioned, nicely labelled, and give plenty of free rein to open and blank spaces on the woodblock.
The only time these images really “fail” is when they appear in colour–a process that would’ve been undertaken privately, by the purchaser of the book, who would have contracted with an artisan to colo r the book.
The images in almost all of the cases of colouring that I have seen just do not match the elegance and brilliance of the original with no color.
Source for all images: NATIONAL LIBRARY OF MEDICINE,
Highlights from the illustrations in the 1665 edition of Fortunio Liceti’s De Monstris, originally published, without the illustrations, in 1616.
Liceti’s work, although not the first on the topic of deformities in nature, was perhaps the most influential of the period.
In the wake of the book there was a huge rise in interest throughout Europe in “monstrosities”: pygmies, supposed mermaids, deformed fetuses, and other natural marvels were put on display and widely discussed, becoming the circus freak-shows of their time.
However, unlike many of his contemporaries Licenti did not see deformity as something negative, as the result of errors or failures in the course of nature.
Instead he likened nature to an artist who, faced with some imperfection in the materials to be shaped, ingeniously creates another form still more admirable.
‘It is said that I see the convergence of both Nature and art,’ wrote Liceti, ‘because one or the other not being able to make what they want, they at least make what they can.”