‘First, Into the Nature of the Bones, which like other products of Nature have their infancy, or first beginning, their improvement, and tendency to maturity, and their perfection’.
Clopton Havers, Osteologia nova, or Some new observations of the bones, and the parts belonging to them, with the manner of their accretion, and nutrition, communicated to the Royal Society in several discourses (London, 1691), p. 30.
Edward Worth collected Aldine editions of both Hippocrates and Galen, each of whom had discussed the nature of bones, and, as Dr Magdalena Koźluk (Uniwersytet Łódzki), has discovered, bound into Worth’s copy of the 1538 Latin edition of Galen’s Opera Omnia (printed at Basel), was a manuscript of his De Ossibus, itself a copy of the 1543 Parisian edition of Michel de Vascosan (d. c. 1577). In addition, Worth also possessed a 1725 Leiden edition of Vesalius’ De Humani Corporis Fabrica, the model for most early modern investigations of anatomy. While many authors, following Vesalius, began their texts with illustrations of the human skeleton and a consideration of osteology before turning to the muscles and organs, a few took a different approach and Worth owned copies of texts by two such authors: William Cowper (1666/7–1710), and Clopton Havers (1657–1702), both of whom were among the leading English anatomists of their day.
William Cowper, Myotomia reformata (London, 1694), Fig. XVII: front of skeleton.
Cowper was famous for two texts, both products of the 1690s and both of which were collected by Worth. The main focus of his Myotomia reformata (London, 1694), was on muscles, but it included, as its title page boasted, ‘A Graphical Description of the Bones; And other Anatomical Observations’. It was Cowper’s first major work and included ten plates of various anatomical illustrations as well as a discussion of the anatomy of the penis.
Cowper provided the following key to his image of the front of the human skeleton and it plainly shows that he was, in this book at least, more interested in the interactions of bone and muscle (with an emphasis on the latter), than in a discussion of osteology for its own sake:
- The Os Sincipitis or Bregmatis.
- The Os Frontis.
- The Os Temporum or Squammosum.
- The Two Bones of the Nose, either of which is reckoned the Fifth Bone of the Upper Jaw.
- The Fourth Bone of the Upper Jaw.
- The First Bone of the Upper Jaw.
- The Septum Narium.
- The Processus Mastoides or Mammiformis.
- The Os Jugale.
- The Lower Jaw-bone; that part of it called the Chin;
- Its Posterior Process that is Articulated to the Os Temporum, called Condyloides;
- The Anterior Process called Corone.
- The Bodies of the Two Inferior Vertebrae of the Neck; f g h, Their Transverse Processes.
- The Clavicula.
- The Spina Scapulae.
- The Processes Coracoides Scapulae.
- The Short Process of the Scapula.
- The Os Humeri, of Shoulder Bone; That part of it where the Deltoides Muscle is Inferred;
- Its Head that is Articulated with the Should-blade’
- The Asperity where the Musculus subscapularis is Inserted;
- A Sinus in the Upper part of the Shoulder-bone that received the External Tendinous Head of the Musculus Biceps;
- The Internal Protuberance of the Lower part of the Os Humeri, whence the Two Flecting Muscles of the Carpus, Pronator Radii Teres, Palmaris, and Musculus Perforatus of the Finders do Arise;
- The External Protuberance of the last named Bone, when the Muscles Extending the Carpus and Fingers to Arise.
- The Radius.
- Its Prominence to which the Large Tendn of the Musculus Biceps is Inserted.
- The Ulna.
- The Eight Bones of the Carpus.
- The Four Bones of the Metacarpus.
- The Three Bones of the Thumb with their Ossicula Sesamoidea.
- The Bones of the Fingers, Composed of Twelve Bones, of which Three belongs to each Finger.
- The Upper part of the Os Pectoris or Sternum.
- The Lower part of the Os Pectoris or Cartilago Ensiformis, which is some times Bifid, as it appeared in the Subject from whence This Figure was Drawn.
- The Vertebrae of the Back or Thorax.
- The Vertebrae of the Loins, I, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, The Twelves Ribs. W, x, y, z, [Cross], The Transverse Processes of the Vertebrae of the Loins.
- The Os Sacrum.
- The Os Innominatum, tho’ by some called Coxendix; That part of it called Illium; its Internal Concave part.
- Its Spine
- The Os Publis or Pectinis.
- The Os Ischium, where it is joined to the last named Bone.
- Shews the Great Sinusses of the Ossa Ilii, and circumscription of the Pelvis Abdominis.
- The Foramen of the Os Ischium and Pubis.
- The Os Femoris or Thigh-Bone.
- Its Head which is received into the Acetabulum or Cotyle of the Os Innominatum.
- Nect of the Thigh-bone.
- The Great Trocanter.
- The Lesser Trocanter, where the Musculus Rsoas and Iliacus Internus are Inserted.
- The lower and Internal Head of the Thigh-bone, to which the strong Tendon of the Musculus Triceps is Implanted.
- The Mola or Patella, by some called Rotula.
- The Tibia.
- A Prominence on its upper part, where the Tendons of all the Extending Muscles of the Leg are Inserted.
- The Malleolus Internus.
- The Fibula.
- Its Superior Appendix.
- Its Inferior Appendix.
- The Os Astragali.
- The Os Cymbiforme.
- The Os Cuneiforme majus, seu Internum.
- The Os Cuneiforme medium.
- The Os Cuneiforme Externum.
- The Os Cubiforme.
- Part of the Os Calcis in situ.
- The Five Bone of the Metatarsus.
- The Two Bones of the Great Toe.
- The Twelve Bones of the Lesser Toes, of which Three compose each Toe.
****, &c. The Appendices of the Spina Scapular, Os Humeri, Radius Ulna, Os Femoris, and Tibia.
William Cowper, Myotomia reformata (London, 1694), Fig. XVIII: back of skeleton.
Four years later Cowper published one of the most controversial anatomical atlases of all, his massive 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). The debate about the origins of the work has been explored by Ms Sarah Horton in her 2021 August Book of the Month.
As Cowper tells his readers, his aim in this work was to bring together the anatomical discoveries of his time, combining them with wonderful illustrations and astute comments by the author:
‘This Volume contains a General Description of the Fabrick of Humane Bodies, after the Manner of a Commentary on the Tables, which Represent their several Organs. The present and last Age, have been Industrious in making Discoveries in the Animal Machine, by Detecting the Structure of the Heart, and Artifice of the Circulation, the Origin and Course of the Lymphe-ducts, the several Salival Glands and their Channels, the Texture of the Bones, and Medullary Cells, the Mucilaginous Glands of the Ioints, the Organs and Process of Generation, the Organs of the External Senses, in reforming the Myology, (an Essay on the Last of These, with some Remarks on the Structure and Erection of the Penis, I some time since Publish’d,) all which the Reader will find in the following Descriptions, with my own Observations and Conjectures, which in many Places differ from the General receiv’d Opinions’.
As Monique Kornell notes, by publishing his anatomical atlas Cowper followed in Vesalius’ footsteps in more ways than one, for he too illustrated his own works. Though the majority of the plates in The Anatomy of Humane Bodies had previously been published by Bidloo, Cowper added yet more to the work. He did the same when he prepared another edition of the Myotomia reformata in 1724, an edition which Worth did not purchase (presumably because he already owned the first edition).
Clopton Havers, Osteologia nova, or Some new observations of the bones, and the parts belonging to them, with the manner of their accretion, and nutrition, communicated to the Royal Society in several discourses (London, 1691), Tab. II: image a knee.
Perhaps Cowper spent less time on the development of bones because in his view the subject had been ‘very well Explain’d by Dr. Havers in his Osteologia’. Havers is famous as being the first to describe the minute structure of bone. Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1686, he initially published his discoveries in the Transactions of the Royal Society between 1689 and 1690 before bringing them together to form his Osteologia Nova. The book, as its title page noted, was divided into five sections:
- Of the Membrane, Nature, Constituent parts, and Internal Structure of the Bones.
- Of Accretion, and Nutrition, as also of the Affections of the Bones in the Rickers, and of Venereal Nodes.
- Of the Medulla, or Marrow.
- Of the Mucilaginous Glands, with the Etiology or Explication of the Causes of a Rheumatism, and the Gout, and the manner how they are produced.
- A Fifth Discourse of the Cartilages.
Of these the first section, dealing with the microscopic structure of bone was the most innovative. True, as Le Fanu states, Havers may not have been the first to notice lamellae but he was the first to publish a systematic study which remained the key authority on bone during Worth’s lifetime.
Havers’ chapter on cartilage, which he determined was ‘of a middle temper between a Bone and a Ligament’ was also noteworthy for, though cartilage had been first documented by Aristotle it was Havers who was the first to consider its flexibility. He observed that its very flexibility distinguished it from bone:
‘The Bones are rigid, and more tenacious of their figure, the Cartilages are flexible, and apt to the conformed to those figures, which the force, than bends them, would oblige them to. The reason for this flexibility in one above the other is the difference, there is as to the union of their Particles, which in a Bone are at their extremities so united in every series, as to form a continue and an entire string, and when all inflection obliges the extremities of some Particles either to recede, as where the convex is elongated, or as to approach nearer to one another, as when the Concave is shortned, consequently that Body, in which they are so united, that they can do neither, must be rigid, and unapt to be bent’.
Image of Haversian canals in a transverse section of a fibula: Source digital bitmap graphics: BDB Recreated in vector format: Nyq, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
Havers’ work is commemorated by the eponymous Haversian canals, the channels of bone through which blood vessels travel. In his Osteologia Nova Havers describes the canals as follows:
‘In the Bones through, and between the Plates are formed Pores besides those, which are made for the passage of the Blood-Vessels, which are of two sorts, some penetrate the Laminae, and are transverse looking from the Cavity to the external superficies of the Bone. The second sort are formed between the Plates, which are longitudinal, and straight, tending from one end of the bone towards the other, and observing the course of the bony Strings’.
In the true spirit of the experimental philosophy Havers not only recorded his findings but brought pieces of bone to his lectures, to demonstrate, with the aid of a magnifying glass, his findings.
Perhaps Havers understood that even the most life-like anatomical drawings couldn’t truly capture what he wished to demonstrate, in the way a specimen could. One of the challenges that anatomists like him faced was their inability to preserve tissue in their specimens. One of the first to achieve preservation of specimens for the purpose of anatomical demonstrations was Guillaume Desnoues (1650–1735), a French surgeon and anatomist. Desnoues pioneered the art of arresting decay in human specimens by injecting them with waxes. This dried specimen of a human knee joint, one of the earliest specimens in the collection of the Old Anatomy Museum, is attributed to him. It shows the knee joint bones in flexion by preserving the tendons and ligaments that comprise it.
Early 18th century dissection of knee joint, dried human specimen preserved with wax. Attributed to Parisian anatomist Guillaume Desnoues. Courtesy of the Old Anatomy Museum, School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin.
Another way to demonstrate osteological anatomy and the relationships between bones was to articulate them. The knee joint specimen above is an example of natural articulation, achieved through drying and preserving the ligaments and tendons that connected bones. When that was not possible or desirable, anatomists used metal wire and hardware, commonly made of copper, to articulate the bones artificially.
A particularly sophisticated method of artificial articulation was implemented by Edmé François Chauvot de Beauchêne (1780–1830) who presented his osteological specimens in an ‘exploded’ format— a illustrative method invented in the Renaissance to denote the relationships between parts of a whole.
‘Exploded’ articulated specimen of the human hand, 19th century. Courtesy of the Old Anatomy Museum, School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin.
The hand specimen is likely to have been made by Tramond of Paris, as it bears the manufacturer’s characteristic rosette ornament on the base. Established in 1850, Maison Tramond was a large and popular supplier of anatomical specimens and models. The skeletal preparation of the torso seen here was also likely made by Tramond.
Skeletal preparation of a torso, sectioned at the median plane, 19th century. Courtesy of the Old Anatomy Museum, School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin.
Text: Dr Elizabethanne Boran, Librarian of the Edward Worth Library, and Ms Evi Numen, the Curator of the Old Anatomy Museum, Trinity College Dublin.
Anon, ‘An Account of a Book. Osteologia Nova, or some Observations of the Bones, &c Communicated to the Royal Society, in Several Discourses, Read at their Meetings, by the Learned and Accurate Author, Clopton Havers, M.D. and R. S. Soc. Lond, 1691, Octavo, for Sam. Smith.’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 17, no. 194 (1693), 544–54.
Barbian, Birte. Die Geschichte Der Anatomischen Sammlung Des Institutes Für Anatomie in Münster Mit Besonderer Berücksichtigung Ihrer Historischen Modelle Und Präparate. [Electronic ed.]. 2010.
Benedek, T.G., ‘Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. A history of the understanding of cartilage’, OsteoArthritis and Cartilage, 14 (2006), 203–9.
Cowper, William, Myotomia reformata (London, 1694).
Cowper, William, 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).
Dobson, Jessie, ‘Pioneers of Osteology. Clopton Havers’, The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 34B, no. 4 (1952), 701–7.
Havers, Clopton, Osteologia Nova (London, 1691).
Kornell, Monique, ‘Cowper [Cooper], William (1666/7–1710), surgeon and anaatomist’, ODNB, 2004.
Kornell, Monique, ‘Drawing of William Cowper for his Myotomia reformata (London, 1724)’ Master Drawings, 57, no. 4 (2019) 489-510.
Le Fanu, William, ‘Havers, Clopton, ‘Encyclopedia.com
Lightbrown, R.W., ‘Giulio Zumbo — II: Genoa and France’, The Burlington Magazine 106, no. 741 (December 1964): 565.
Martensen, Robert L, ‘Havers, Clopton (1657–1702), physician and anatomist’. ODNB, 2004.
Spinner, Robert J. et al., ‘Discovering the elusive Beauchêne: the originator of the disarticulated anatomic technique’, Clinical anatomy (New York, N.Y.) vol. 24, no. 7 (2011), 797-801.
Vladimirsky, Sam, ‘The Sculptor Who Changed Anatomy,’ Medium, May 2020.
 Cowper, William, Myotomia reformata (London, 1694), pp 258–62.
 Cowper, William, The anatomy of humane bodies (Oxford, 1698),’To the Reader’.
 Ibid., ‘The introduction explaining the Animal Oeconomy’.
 Havers, Clopton, Osteologia Nova (London, 1691), p. 285.
 Ibid., pp 270–1.
 Ibid., p. 43.
 Lightbrown, R. W., ‘Giulio Zumbo — II: Genoa and France,’ The Burlington Magazine, 106, no. 741 (December 1964), 565.
 Spinner, Robert J. et al., ‘Discovering the elusive Beauchêne: the originator of the disarticulated anatomic technique’, Clinical anatomy, 24, no. 7 (2011), 797-801.
 Ferguson, Eugene S., Engineering and the Mind’s Eye (Cambridge Massachusetts, 1999), p. 82.
 Barbian, Birte. Die Geschichte Der Anatomischen Sammlung Des Institutes Für Anatomie in Münster Mit Besonderer Berücksichtigung Ihrer Historischen Modelle Und Präparate. [Electronic ed.]. 2010.