Four landmark medical texts in Yale's collections

“De Humani Corporis Fabrica” (“On the Workings of the Human Body”) was published in 1543. Its author was Andreas Vesalius, a 28-year-old professor from the University of Padua.
Vesalius conducted systematic dissections of human cadavers and recorded his observations in his masterpiece, which is known simply as the “Fabrica.” This is an illustration of one of his studies of the human skeleton.
“The volume’s 663 folio pages, 11 large plates and almost 300 other illustrations were the product of the first systematic dissections of man ever to be published for the instruction of physicians,” says Nuland. A skeleton contemplating death
The illustrations for the “Fabrica” were drawn by Stephan van Calcar, a student of Titian. A posterior view of a skeleton bending forward.
Vesalius traveled to Venice to get the most highly skilled woodblock cutters of the time. A sideview of human musculature.
Vesalius packed the blocks on mules and led them over the Alps to Basel, where Joannes Operinus had one of the finest printing establishments in Europe. Front view of human musculature.
The “Fabrica,” “signaled not only a great achievement in the history of anatomy, but in the craft of bookmaking and in the art of pedagogy as well,” notes Nuland. Vesalius’ table of instruments
"William Harvey’s ‘De Motu Cordis Sanguinis in Animalibus,’ ‘On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals,’ is a kind of Declaration of Independence of medical discovery,” says Nuland. Illustration shows segment of the human circulatory system
Harvey’s De Motu Cordis, an “unprepossessing little book” — 72 quarto-sized pages measuring 5 1/2 by 7 1/2 inches — illustrating the circulation of blood through the pumping action of the heart, was revolutionary when it was published in 1628. Title page
Giovanni Battista Morgagni was 79 years old in 1761 when he published “De Sedibus et Causis Morborum per Anatomen Indagatis” (“The Seats and Causes of Disease as Shown by Anatomy.”) In it, he demonstrated that illness was not caused by “fluxes of humors” but by pathological changes within the organs of the body. Frontispiece
“‘De Sedibus’ led to the development of the techniques of physical examination and directly to the invention of the stethoscope in 1816,” notes Nuland. Title page.
Text from Morgagni’s “De Sedibus.”
When Henry Gray’s “Anatomy Descriptive and Surgical”(“Gray’s Anatomy”) was published in 1858, a reviewer identified only as “H” (Nuland surmises it was Oliver Wendell Holmes) condemned Gray’s clearly labeled illustrations for distracting medical students from the text. A side view of the muscles of the face and neck.
“Gray’s Anatomy was destined to become a classic of pedagogical literature, truly one of the healing profession’s Great Books,” notes Nuland. The illustration is of permanent adult teeth.
“Now in its 39th American edition, this workhorse of medical pedagogy has remained in everyday use far longer than any medical instructional volume of modern times …,” Nuland says. The arteries of the neck.
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Yale lecturer Dr. Sherwin Nuland credits four medical books — all of them in Yale's Medical Historical Library — with changing our understanding of how the human body functions and how we think about our relationship with nature. Here is a look inside those books.
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