Tuesday, February 07, 2012

William Hunter's Anatomy of the human gravid uterus

This morning we had a researcher consulting our books by William and John Hunter. I took the opportunity to snap a few photos of our copy of William Hunter's greatest work, Anatomia uteri humani gravidi tabulis illustrata [The anatomy of the human gravid uterus exhibited in figures].

Originally published in 1774, our copy is a 19th century reprint that includes English translation of the text.

The engravings by the Dutch-born illustrator Jan van Rymsdyk are beautiful and - to my eye - unsettling.

"PLATE VI. This represents the child in the womb, in its natural situation...Every part is represented just as it was found; not so much as one joint of a finger having been moved to show any part more distinctly, or to give a more picturesque effect."

Plate XII is one of two images of a subject that was described as having died from a fatal "flooding" or hemorrhage during childbirth. The caption points to "The external lobulated surface of the lower part of the placenta; which had originally stuck to the inside of the neck and mouth of the womb; but as parturition approached, the dilation of these parts occasioned a separation, which was necessarily followed by an hemorrhage."

The narrative details give the subjects a haunting concreteness.


Beth I. Robinson said...

This is amazing! Can't wait to see this one in person next time I am up...

Maija said...

Hope to see you soon, Beth!