The Human Body
The Human Body
‘As no Faculty has received greater Additions to its Improvement in this last Age than Physick, so no part of that has been more tempting, or more successfully pursued than Anatomy.’.
Clopton Havers, Osteologia Nova, (London, 1691), p.1.
Edward Worth’s extensive anatomical collection allows us to explore early modern knowledge of the human body. He possessed two of the most famous anatomical atlases of the age: the 1725 Leiden edition of Vesalius’ De Humani Corporis Fabrica; and the 1698 Oxford edition of William Cowper’ The Anatomy of Humane Bodies. Alongside these he also collected a host of smaller format works which likewise reflect the many advances made in anatomical understanding during the sixteenth, seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
Lorenz Heister, L’Anatomie d’Heister avec des essais de physique sur l’usage des parties du corps humain, et sur le méchanisme de leurs mouvemens (Paris, 1724), plate 1.
Many of these smaller format works were anatomical textbooks, such as this French edition of the German anatomist, surgeon and botanist Lorenz Heister’s Compendium Anatomicum (Altdorf, 1717), written while he was Professor of Anatomy and Surgery at the University of Altdorf, before he moved to take a similar position at the University of Helmstedt. Heister (1683–1758), had studied anatomy at Leiden under Bernhard Albinus (1653–1721), the father of one of the editors of the 1725 Leiden edition of De Humani Corporis Fabrica. He was also familiar with the anatomical studies of Govard Bidoo (1649-1713), whose Anatomia Humani Corporis, an atlas published in Amsterdam in 1685, had formed the image base of Cowper’s Anatomy of Humane Bodies. Heister’s own Compendium Anatomicum proved to be ‘the universally accepted anatomical reference work for more than a century’.
Lorenz Heister, L’Anatomie d’Heister avec des essais de physique sur l’usage des parties du corps humain, et sur le méchanisme de leurs mouvemens (Paris, 1724), plate IX.
Many of Worth’s books thus reflect the teaching on offer at contemporary centres of anatomical excellence such as Leiden (where Worth had studied), or Paris, and as such attempted to discuss the human body as a whole. Others, concentrated on specific organs, such the heart, the brain and the pancreas. This section of our online exhibition therefore focuses on Worth’s books on various elements of the human body. The structure, in the main, follows that of Gray’s Anatomy, a textbook first published in 1858 which remains a standard reference text (its 42nd edition appeared in 2020). It therefore begins with the bones and then proceeds to the muscles; the cardiovascular system; the lymphatic system; the nervous system; the organs of special sense (including the tongue, nose, eye and ear); the organs of digestion; the organs of voice and respiration; the urinary organs; and, ending at the beginning, with the organs of generation.
Text: Dr Elizabethanne Boran, Librarian of the Edward Worth Library, Dublin.
Anon, ‘Lorenz Heister (1683–1758) Eighteenth-Century Surgeon’, Journal of the American Medical Association, 202, no. 11, (1967), 1048–9.
Bryn Thomas, K, ‘The Great Anatomical Atlases’, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 67 (1974), 223–32.
Havers, Clopton, Osteologia Nova (London, 1691).
Persaud, T.V.N., A History of Anatomy. The Post-Vesalian Era (Springfield, 1997).
 Anon, ‘Lorenz Heister (1683–1758) Eighteenth-Century Surgeon’, Journal of the American Medical Association, 202, no. 11, (1967), 1049.