Thursday, March 08, 2007

Bourgery's Atlas

An exciting addition to our collections came over from cataloging today: J.M. Bourgery's Atlas of human anatomy and surgery: the complete coloured plates of 1831-1854 is now available in the History of Medicine Room. (And measuring in at 41 cm. in height, it's hard to miss!)

French anatomist and physician Jean-Baptiste Marc Bourgery (1797-1849) collaborated with illustrator Nicolas Henri Jacob (1782-1871), a student of the French painter Jacques Louis David, to produce this monumental work on anatomy and surgery.

The atlas illustrates descriptive anatomy, surgical anatomy and techniques (exploring in detail nearly all the major operations that were performed during the first half of the 19th century), general anatomy and embryology, pathology, and microscopic anatomy. Jacob's life-size lithographs are considered by some to be unsurpassed by any later anatomical illustration. Interspersed are numerous plates of surgical instruments.

There is something in this work to interest everyone, from surgery on the tongue and jaw to detailed views of the brainstem to disarticulations of the wrist. We began looking through its pages and literally lost track of time, captivated by the sheer artistry of the images and the complexity of the human body (not to mention the primitive nature of mid-19th century surgical techniques).

To enjoy a few images from the book online, see the publishers' blurb on the Taschen web site (the arrows below the included image allow you to scroll through several other digital images).

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