Welcome to Anatomy at the Edward Worth Library and the Old Anatomy Museum, Trinity College Dublin

The Edward Worth Library is a rare books collection, bequeathed to Dr Steevens’ Hospital, Dublin, by Dr Edward Worth (1676-1733), who was one of the Hospital’s earliest Trustees. The Old Anatomy Museum houses the anatomical and pathological collection of the School of Medicine and represents three hundred years of medical education at Trinity College Dublin. This web exhibition, curated by the Librarian of the Edward Worth Library, Dr Elizabethanne Boran, and the Curator of the Old Anatomy Museum, Ms Evi Numen, explores Worth’s anatomical books and the anatomical collections of the Old Anatomy Museum.[1] It marks the quatercentenary of the birth of the famous English anatomist, Thomas Willis (1621–75) and it is the fourteenth in a series of websites exploring the holdings of the Worth Library. For further details please visit our website: www.edwardworthlibrary.ie.

William Cowper, The anatomy of humane bodies, with figures drawn after the life by some of the best masters in Europe, and curiously engraven in one hundred and fourteen copper plates, illustrated with large explications, containing many new anatomical discoveries, and chirurgical observations: to which is added an introduction explaining the animal oeconomy, with a copious index (Oxford, 1698), Table 71.

The online exhibition investigates the anatomical discoveries of the early modern period, many of which are reflected in Worth’s wonderful collection of anatomical books such as the ground-breaking De Humani Corporis Fabrica of Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564). The exhibition tracks the anatomical discoveries of the human body, and is organized, in the main, in line with Gray’s Anatomy: bones, muscles, the cardiovascular system, the heart, the lymphatic system, the nervous system, the brain, the organs of special sense (tongue, nose, eye and ear), the organs of digestion, voice and respiration (including the larynx), urinary organs (concentrating on the kidney), the male and female reproductive system. It likewise examines the great textbooks of the age emanating from the University of Padua, Paris, Copenhagen and Leiden – the last university being Worth’s own alma mater.

Worth’s anatomical collection is an extensive one, as are the valuable anatomical collections of the Old Anatomy Museum, and therefore not all areas have been investigated in this current exhibition. Many early modern anatomists were also surgeons and their more surgically focused treatises have been explored elsewhere in a previous online exhibition: Surgery at the Edward Worth Library. Comparative anatomy, a vital component of early modern anatomical teaching, will be the subject of a later exhibition. Théophile Bonet’s fascinating Sepulchretum sive anatomia practica ex cadaveribus morbo denatis (Geneva 1679), a collections of thousands of autopsies, will, it is hoped, be a future Book of the Month, just as William Cowper’s famous anatomical atlas, The anatomy of humane bodies (Oxford, 1698), was the Worth Library August 2021 Book of the Month. The aim of this online exhibition is to share our collections with you and introduce you to the wonderful resources of the Edward Worth Library and the Old Anatomy Museum, Trinity College Dublin. We welcome your feedback on our exhibition and can be contacted on our ‘Contact Us’ page.

[1] We are grateful to Mr Antoine Mac Gaoithín for preparing the images from the Edward Worth Library.

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