Icones anatomicae [De humani corporis fabrica; Epitome]
"Time alone can tell what in another four centuries may happen to these historic wood-blocks... But let us hope that by A.D. 2342 peace and goodwill among the nations will have come to stay."
– Harvey Cushing, 1943
HISTORIC AND MONUMENTAL BREMER PRESS PRINTING OF VESALIUS USING NOW-DESTROYED ORIGINAL EARLY MODERN WOODCUTS. LIMITED EDITION: NO. 341 of 400 US COPIES (out of a total edition of 615).
The highly influential 16th century anatomist Andreas Vesalius is often credited as the founder of the modern study of human anatomy. Throughout his life he created many works that included intricate, descriptive, and beautiful wood-block illustrations of the muscular, skeletal, vascular and nervous systems. Many of these images have since become iconic in anatomical depictions of the human body and appear in diverse media.
In 1934 the New York Academy of Medicine and the University of Munich's university library came together to create the present historic printing of Icones anatomicae using the original woodblocks from Vesalius's classic works. The woodcuts have a long and storied history, making their use in this 20th century edition particularly noteworthy. From their initial conception, Vesalius was heavily involved in the process of creating the set of precise images he would use to illustrate his treatises, and starting in 1543 they were featured in his works. The woodblocks used to illustrate Icones anatomicae include many of the woodblocks found in the seven books of De Humani corporis fabrica as well as Suorum de Humani coporis fabrica liborum Epitome and Von des menschen copers Anatomey. The 1934 printing of Icones anatomicae is the last printing ever manifested from these woodcuts, which were shortly destroyed during the Second World War. Only a few years before their destruction, Harvey Cushing noted in his 1943 A Bio-Bibliography of Andreas Vesalius, "Time alone can tell what in another four centuries may happen to these historic wood-blocks... But let us hope that by A.D. 2342 peace and goodwill among the nations will have come to stay" (p. 108).
The woodcut illustrations throughout this book include 227 of the original woodcuts plus an additional 50 woodcuts reproduced in facsimile. Only 615 copies were produced of this edition, printed in Germany, with the first 400 being reserved "usui Academiae Medicinae Novae–Eboracensis" [for the use of the New York Academy of Medicine]. The remaining copies were reserved for the University of Munich Library or for sale exclusively in Europe. This copy (no. 341) was one of those selected number destined for the United States. A "To the Reader" leaf, laid in at the end of this copy provides a in-depth exploration of the edition's historic production.
VESALIUS, ANDREAS. Icones anatomicae. [New York and Munich]: Bremer Press for the New York Academy of Medicine and Munich University Library, 1934. No. 341 of 400 copies reserved for the New York Academy of Medicine, from a total edition of 615. Large folio (381 x 546 mm), viii, 175 pp. including two fold-outs plus 1 leaf "To the Reader" laid in. Original three-quarter pigskin; boards with gilt titling and Vesalius' leporine arms; morocco spine label; untrimmed. Some wear to edges, with rubbing to corners and spine and marks to lower board, text bright and crisp throughout. A beautiful copy of a magnificent production.
Cushing, Harvey, A Bio-Bibliography of Andreas Vesalius, Historical Library No. 6, Yale Medical Library (New York: Schuman's, 1943).
Price: $6,000 .