De humani corporis fabrica
De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (Latin for On the fabric of the human body in seven books) is a collection of textbooks on human anatomy written by Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564) and published in 1543.1
The collection of books are based on his Paduan lectures, during which he deviated from common practice by dissecting a corpse to illustrate what he was discussing. Dissections previously had been performed by a barber surgeon under the direction of a doctor of medicine, who was expected not to perform manual labour. Vesalius' "hands-on" magnum opus presents a careful examination of the organs and the complete structure of the human body. This would not have been possible without the many advances that had been made during the Renaissance, including both artistic developments in literal visual representation and the technical development of printing refined woodcut engravings. Because of these developments and his careful, immediate involvement, he was able to produce illustrations superior to any that had been produced up to then.
- 1 Volumes of the Collection Based Off Richardson and Carman's "On the Fabric of the Human Body"
- 2 Galen's Errors
- 3 Publication
- 4 Reception
- 5 Surviving copies
- 6 References
- 7 Bibliography
- 8 External links
Based off the collection of William Frank Richardson and John Burd Carman's, "On the Fabric of the Human Body", Vesalius' work has been translated, and made easier to understand Vesalius' use of anatomical text. In each translated book, Richardson and Carman explains each topic of Vesalius' dissections, and presents a brief timeline of Vesalius' life. In each of Vesalius' books, which is presented in the translated version, his use of symbols displayed on the printed figures of the dissections allows the readers to refer back from text to figure.
This first book of Vesalius is about a fourth of the entire collection. It presents Vesalius' observations of human bones and cartilages, which he collected from cemeteries. Vesalius goes over the physical appearance of human bones, the differentiation of human bones and cartilages by function. In each chapter he describes the bones in great detail, explaining their physical qualities in different angles. In the beginning chapters, Vesalius "gives general aspects of bones and skeletal organization, dealing with the differences in texture, strength, and resilience between bone and cartilage; explaining the complex differences between types of joints and reviewing some basic elements of descriptive techniques and terminology. " A major theme of this book is does Galen accurately describe the bones of the human skeleton. When Vesalius is presenting the skeleton in front of his students, he must also present the bones of animals to allow credibility in Galen's observations of bones.
In book two, Vesalius describes the structure of the muscles, the agents used in creating movement for our bodies, and the material used to hold the joints together. Through his observing of butchers cutting meat, Vesalius was able to incorporate the skills of the butchers into the dissection of the human body. Vesalius explains the order one should dissect a single human body to effectively observe each muscle the body contains. Each figure in the book displays a deepening view of the human body where one could follow along while dissecting a human body. He also mentions the instruments needed in order to perform a dissection. In this book, Vesalius began to notice how Galen's anatomical descriptions did not match with his observations. In order to not slander Galen, Vesalius explains how Galen's use of anatomical structure is in fact correct, but not for humans. He even continues to mention some of the structures the way Galen would have.
In books three and four, Vesalius describes the veins, arteries, and nerves as vessels but is aware of the differing physical appearance: veins and arteries contains a hollow channel, but nerves do not. Vesalius explains the route in which air travels through the lungs and the heart. He describes this process as "a tree whose trunks divide into branches and twigs". He also describes how the body contains four veins (the portal vein, the venae cavae, the artery-like vein, and the umbilical vein) and two arteries (the aorta, and the vein-like artery) that are the main vessels that branches out into other smaller veins and arteries. Vesalius would recognize about six hundred vessels in his tables concerning the arteries, veins, and nerves but fails to mention those smaller vessels located in the hands and feet, the terminal vessels of the cutaneous nerves, or the vessels in the lungs and liver.
In book five, Vesalius presents detailed descriptions of the organs of nutrition, the urinary system, and the male and female reproductive systems. The alimentary and reproductive systems each make up about forty percent of the book, while the renal system and the proper techique in dissecting this portion of the body completes it. The final chapter in this book, which turns out to be the longest chapter of the entire collection, gives a detailed step-by-step instruction on how to dissect the abdominopelvic organs. In the first half of the book, Vesalius describes the peritoneum, the esophagus, the stomach, the omentum, the intestines and the mesentery. He then goes on to describe the liver, gall bladder, and the spleen. Finally, Vesalius describes the kidneys, the bladder, and the ureters. Although Vesalius was unfamiliar with the anatomy of pregnancy, he presents images of the placenta and the fetal membrane, using anatomical reference from Galen of a dog's reproductive organs to compare them with those of a human.
In books six and seven, Vesalius describes the substances and functions of the heart and the organs of respiration, the brain and its coverings, the eye, the organs of sensation, and the nerves of the limbs.He also dedicates a chapter on the vivisection of the eye. Vesalius further describes the organs of the body in great detail by commenting "on the variable strength of the attachment of the pleura to the thoraic walls, the strong attachment of the pericardium to the diaphragm, the shape and orientation of the ventricles of the heart, and the description of the semi lunar valves." He sums up each book with a chapter on the proper way of dissecting the heart and the brain for those who would like to follow along.
Fabrica rectified some of Galen's worst errors, including the notion that the great blood vessels originated from the liver. While examining a human corpse, Vesalius discovered that Galen's observations were inconsistent with those of his, due to Galen's use of animal (dogs and monkeys) cadavers. Even with his improvements, however, Vesalius clung to some of Galen's errors, such as the idea that there was a different type of blood flowing through veins than arteries. It was not until William Harvey's work on the circulation of the blood that this misconception of Galen would be rectified in Europe.
Vesalius had the work published at the age of 28, taking great pains to ensure its quality, and dedicated it to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. The more than 250 illustrations are of great artistic merit and are generally attributed by modern scholars to the "studio of Titian" rather than Johannes Stephanus of Calcar, who provided drawings for Vesalius' earlier tracts, but in a much inferior style.citation needed The woodcuts were greatly superior to the illustrations in anatomical atlases of the day, which were never made by anatomy professors themselves. The woodcut blocks were transported to Basel, Switzerland, as Vesalius wished that the work be published by one of the foremost printers of the time, Johannes Oporinus. Vesalius' written directions to Oporinus (the iter) were so valuable the printer decided to include them. The illustrations were engraved on wooden blocks, which allowed for very fine detail.2
The success of Fabrica recouped the work's considerable expense, and brought him European fame, partly through cheap pirated versions that rapidly appeared.. He was appointed physician to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V; Vesalius presented him with the first published copy (bound in silk of imperial purple, with specially hand-painted illustrations not found in any other copy). To accompany the Fabrica, Vesalius publishied a condensed, less expensive Epitome, which became more widely seen than the Fabrica'; it contained eight anatomical engravings that condensed visual material from the Fabrica, one illustration of the human skeleton taken directly from the Fabrica, and two new woodcut plates.3 Vesalius published a second edition of Fabrica in 1555; annotations in a copy of that edition donated to the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, have been identified as Vesalius' own, showing that he was contemplating a third edition, never achieved.4
A copy of the book bound in tanned human skin was donated to Brown University's John Hay Library by an alumnus. Its cover is "polished to a smooth golden brown" and, according to those who have seen the book, it looks like fine leather. Covering medical books in human skin was not an uncommon practice until the 18th century, utilizing the skin of executed convicts and poor people who died with no one to claim the body.5
- An English translation is Vesalius, D.H. Garrison, M.H. Hast, eds.,The Fabric of the Human Body An Annotated Translation of the 1543 and 1555 Editions... (Northwestern University), 2003.
- Brian S. Baigrie Scientific Revolutions, pages 40–49 has more information and a translation of Vesalius' preface.
- M. Kemp, "A drawing for the Fabrica; and some thoughts upon the Vesalius muscle-men." Medical History, 1970
- "U of T acquires annotated copy of Vesalius's great anatomical book". University of Toronto. 2013-03-26.
- Johnson, M.L. (2006-01-08). "Libraries own books bound in human skin". The Barre Montpelier Times Argus. The Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-10-06.
- O'Malley, C.D.. Andreas Vesalius of Brussels, 1514-1564. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964.
- Vesalius, A. De humani corporis fabrica libri septem [Title page: Andreae Vesalii Bruxellensis, scholae medicorum Patauinae professoris De humani corporis fabrica libri septem. Basileae [Basel]: Ex officina Joannis Oporini, 1543.
- Vesalius, Andreas. On the Fabric of the Human Body, translated by W. F. Richardson and J. B. Carman. 5 vols. San Francisco and Novato: Norman Publishing, 1998-2009.
Media related to De humani corporis fabrica at Wikimedia Commons
- Turning the Pages Online. A U.S. National Library of Medicine project to digitize images and plates from "rare and beautiful historic books in the biomedical sciences".
- Andreas Vesalius. De Humani Corporis Fabrica. Historical Anatomies on the Web. Selected images from the original work. National Library of Medicine.
- De Humani Corporis Fabrica online — translated with full images, from Northwestern University