Icones ossium foetus humani. Accedit osteogeniæ brevis historia. Leiden: Verbeek, 1737. [Bound with:] Index supellectilis anatomicae: quam Academiae Batavae quae Leidae est legavit vir clarissimus Johannes Jacobus Rau, rogatu illustrissimorum et amplissimorum academiae istius curatorum et urbis consulum / confectus a Bernhardo Siegfried Albino, qui et vitam ejus et curationem quam calculosis adhibuit instrumentorumque figuras addidit. Leiden: Apud Henricum Mulhovium & prostat quoque Franciscum Schuyl, 1725.

Leiden: Verbeek; Mulhovium & Schuyl, 1737; 1725.

First edition of this classic work on osteology with 32 plates by the master engraver Jan Wandelaar. “Albinus is particularly remembered for his descriptions of the bones, and this first edition of his treatise on fetal bones is one of his finest atlases. All of the fetal bones are illustrated with great detail and are finely lined in the sixteen plates and sixteen line drawings, but in no place is the total skeleton depicted. At the end of his preface, Albinus promises to see to it that only good prints are published and that the plates are not given away to anybody, to prevent the making of inferior prints for the sake of pecuniary gain” (Heirs of Hippocrates). “These plates are also engraved by Wandelaer [as in the celebrated Tabulae sceleti (1747)]. The illustrations were engraved upon the plates directly from the preparations. The first bears the signature: ‘Wandelaar omnes ad exemplaria in aes incidit’. The other plates are not signed. There are altogether sixteen finished plates, containing a total of one hundred and sixty-three representations. Each one of these plates is supplemented by an identical outline-plate containing the same figures with letters engraved upon them. The different bones are reproduced with an unsurpassed fidelity and delicacy” (Choulant). “Albinus’ work in anatomy was of a precision and care rarely matched in the history of anatomical illustration. Some time shortly before 1725, when he was in his twenties, Albinus developed an ambitious plan to publish large-scale engraved plates of human anatomy that would surpass in excellence all previous anatomical illustrations. The work was not only to better the original illustrations of Vesalius and Eustachio but also those in the perfected editions of these authors that Albinus himself edited. No major anatomist has applied himself so fully to anatomical illustrations over so long a period as did Albinus.” (Roberts and Tomlinson). “Besides his anatomical work, [Albinus] made several medical discoveries, among them that the Haversian canals serve to carry blood vessels. He determined the existence of the hymen, which had been a subject of controversy for centuries, in an original way” (DSB).

Bernard Siegfried Albinus (1697-1770), the eldest son of Bernard, matriculated at Leiden on 16 September 1709, at the age of twelve. He studied under his father, H. Boerhaave, G. Bidloo, and J. J. Rau. In 1718 he began a study trip but was soon called back to become lecturer in comparative anatomy, relieving Rau, who was ill and died soon afterward. He began teaching on 2 October 1719, before he had been awarded the M.D. degree—which he received honoris causa shortly thereafter. After his father’s death, Bernard Siegfried was appointed to succeed him, mainly on the recommendation of Boerhaave. He started his duties on 19 November 1721, teaching anatomy and surgery.

“Although Bernard Siegfried became a professor at the uncommonly early age of twenty-four, the university never had cause to regret his appointment. He soon became the leading anatomist of his time; with Boerhaave he made the University of Leiden the world center of medical education. In order to supply his pupils with study material, he reissued (with Boerhaave) the anatomical atlas of Vesalius and later, the anatomical works of Fabrici (1737) and of Eustachi (1744). He also edited the complete works of William Harvey (1736). Not satisfied with these, for their time excellent, anatomical works, he started publishing his own plates, on the human bones (1726), on the human muscles (1734), and on the development of the human skeleton (1737). These works were, however only a forerunner of greater achievements.

“In 1745 Bernard Siegfried’s duties were partially lightened by the appointment of his youngest brother as lecturer in anatomy and surgery; starting 30 August 1745 he taught only general medicine and physiology. This easier schedule enabled him to embark on the great project at which he had been working for many years, a definitive anatomical atlas. He had devised a method for accurately rendering the proportions of a human skeleton or a muscle man … Bernard Siegfried engaged Jan Wandelaar, one of the best draftsmen and engravers available, and spent more 30,000 guilders of his own money in the preparation of the work. In 1747 his work on the human skeleton and muscles was published in thirty-five sheets; in 1748, his illustration of the gravid uterus in nine sheets; and in 1753, an atlas of the human bones, drawn separately, in thirty-four sheets. These plates, supreme examples of anatomical illustration, have never been equalled in excellence. Between 1754 and 1768, his studies on human physiology were published in eight volumes” (ibid.).

After his death in 1770 his widow auctioned off his collection of specimens, which was bought for 6300 guilders by the University of Leiden, where many specimens are still preserved in their anatomical department. Anatomical studies in 1979 revealed that Albinus’ height was 167 cm, the same height that he had used in his anatomical studies as an ideal dimension for his ‘homo perfectus’.

Bound with the Icones is Albinus’s Index supellectilis anatomicae, ‘A list of the anatomical instruments which the very learned Johannes Jacobus Rau bequeathed to the Batavian Academy at Leiden: made at the request of the … curators of the said university and aldermen of the city, by Bernhardus Siegfried Albinus, who added a biography of the testator, a description of the cure he performed on sufferers from stone, and pictures of the instruments.’

Choulant-Frank, p. 280; Heirs of Hippocrates 830; Wellcome II, p. 26. Roberts & Tomlinson, The Fabric of the Body: European Traditions of Anatomical Illustration, 1992.

4to (244 x 198 mm), pp. [4], 162, [2], with 32 engraved plates, title printed in red and black with engraved vignette, plates with light toning. Bound with Index supellectilis anatomicae (1725). Contemporary Dutch vellum with manuscript lettering to spine. A very good, unrestored copy.


Item #3794

Price: $3,200.00

See all items in Chemistry, Medicine, Biology
See all items by