Otium academicum, continens descriptionem speciminum nonnullarum partium corporis humani et animalium subtilioris anatomiae ope in physiologicum usum praeparatarum, aliarumque, quibus morborum organicorum natura illustrator.

Utrecht: Joh. Altheer, 1828.

First edition, extremely rare, of Bleuland’s last work, the beautiful catalogue of the author’s collection of more than 2000 anatomical and pathological preparations. “Jan Bleuland (1756-1838) taught anatomy, physiology and obstetrics to medical students, and to surgical apprentices and midwives surgery and obstetrics using the vernacular. He was personal physician to king Louis Napoleoan. In the troublesome years 1811-1815, when the former university lead a poor existence, he did his utmost to preserve educational standards. Together with his very proficient collaborator Petrus Konig, he put together an anatomical collection of more than 2000 specimens. The collection was later acquired by the government for the Anatomical Museum in Utrecht, part of which is still on display. Bleuland wrote several superbly illustrated anatomical works” (de Moulin, p. 186). AE/RBH record only a single copy (1984); COPAC records copies at Royal College of Surgeons and Wellcome only.

“During his career Bleuland published a number of illustrated anatomical works printed in color, showing a special interest in the fine structure of healthy and diseased states of the organs and tunics of the digestive tract. Bleuland made a collection of over two and a half thousand anatomical preparations, with the assistance of Petrus Koning, whom he had trained as his attendant and as a surgeon from 1800, when the boy was thirteen. The government bought Bleuland’s collection for the Utrecht anatomical museum, and starting in 1826, Bleuland began producing both an inventory, Descriptio musei anatomici (Utrecht, 1826) and a more detailed illustrated catalogue of select specimens, Otium academicum (Utrecht, 1826–28). The Descriptio included human and specimens, both healthy and diseased, and animal ones, starting from the components of human blood and the heart.

Otium academicum consists of three parts dealing with anatomy and physiology, comparative anatomy, and pathological anatomy, respectively; they appeared in twelve installments between 1826 and 1828. The work includes seventy-two plates neatly partitioned: the illustrations of the first two parts include thirty-six intaglio plates printed in color; those of the third part include thirty-five black-and-white lithographs and one color intaglio plate—which will be discussed below. This systematic difference highlights that decisions about the medium employed were carefully planned: specifically, whereas the plates dealing with physiology and comparative anatomy focus on vascular structures highlighted by color injections leading to striking color contrasts, the pathological ones focus more on structural lesions, the exudation of lymph and other fluids, and the formation of membranes, whose appearance and texture were carefully described. Often the specimens were not injected and were kept in alcohol, thus no color was preserved, but the significant features could be effectively captured with the new technique of lithography, which was both more direct and cheaper than intaglio techniques. These relied on metal plates with recessed lines where the ink was placed, and mechanical pressure. By contrast, in lithography the portions to be inked were neither recessed nor raised, but rather simply drawn on a flat stone with an oily substance; the stone was then wet and inking relied on the notion that water and oil do not mix. Thus lithographic prints did not rely on mechanical pressure but on simple chemical properties. Only the first plate in the first part is signed by the Utrecht landscape and town scene artist Jan Hendrik Verheyen (1778–1846) as draftsman and H. De Bruyn (whose identity is unknown) as engraver; it is not clear who was responsible for the lithographs. Possibly because of his reliance on color, Bleuland worked with an artist like Verheyen, who had a very different background from William Clift.

“While striking for the preparation and printing techniques, the overall impression of Bleuland’s work is affected by the artificial look of the images: color in particular, while possibly true to his specimens, looks like a rather implausible rendering of what an anatomist may find in the morgue. Bleuland’s scope in his sections on physiology and comparative anatomy, however, differed from that of the pathologist: he wished to highlight the physiological significance of his structural findings and in this respect, by highlighting the fine vessels of his specimens, his presentation was suitable. Indeed, he often seemed to rejoice at the beauty of his colored injections. Despite his criticism of the plate of the intestinal vessels in Bernhard Siegfried Albinus, Dissertatio de arteriis et venis intestinorum hominis (Leiden, 1736) due to Jan L’Admiral, there was a noticeable resemblance in their enterprises both for the emphasis on vessels and for the color printing, although artists and anatomists employed different techniques for preparing the specimens and for printing. A notable feature of Bleuland’s work is that he often tells us how his preparations were made, which vessels he injected, how slowly he injected them, which colors and at times which substance he used—such as mercury.

“As in previous works he published, Bleuland was especially interested in the vascular structure of tunics and membranes and focused on what he called anatomia subtiliore, relying on microscopy; plate after plate of his Icones anatomico-physiologicae display tunics and membranes. Overall, Bleuland tried to present an integrated approach to different areas, a feature highlighted by his inclusion in his collection and volume of physiology, comparative anatomy, and pathology.

“Much like Baillie’s Engravings [A Series of Engravings, tending to illustrate the Morbid Anatomy of some of the most Important Parts of the Human Body, London, 1799-1812], the six installments of the pathological section follow an anatomical rather than a nosological order and proceed approximately from the heart, pericardium, and lungs to the organs of digestion and generation. Much like Baillie’s Engravings, Bleuland too portrayed individual specimens and focused on what seemed especially instructive rather than extraordinary. In some instances Bleuland highlighted the similarities between his own and Baillie’s specimens, thus establishing parallels between their collections and treatises. While providing a description of the specimens and their significance, however, Bleuland sought to include case histories when possible, complete with a detailed account of the therapy; the fact that he assembled his own collection made it easier for him to provide case histories. Moreover, Bleuland has a much more philosophically loaded agenda; as a follower of the Göttingen physician Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, he frequently emphasized the role of vital and plastic forces …

“One plate differs significantly in the printing technique involved, reflecting a different preparation of the specimen. The case of pneumonia selected by Bleuland is exceptional in that he saw it as significant to physiology as well as to pathology; he prepared his specimen with injections to highlight the processes involved, showing not only a state of pleuro-peripneumonia but also the “mirabiles vires naturae reproducentes et formatrices,” or the “admirable reproductive and formative forces of nature,” reflecting his philosophical stance: it is the only pathological case illustrated with a color engraving, and quite an elaborate one at that. Bleuland claimed that even in a diseased state, nature acts through a plastic formative force repairing the damaged parts, so that even if it is not possible to revert to the organ’s original form, nature produces a new organic apparatus. The figure involves color printing with several plates, one of them relying on aquatint— for the green—so that each feature is painstakingly reproduced. Bleuland argued that all the portions of the lungs affected by inflammation were covered by a pseudo membrane formed by the exudation of “plastic lymph,” which in the upper portion had developed a vascular structure. This plate is representative of Bleuland’s overall emphasis on philosophical aspects and physiological processes of disease over a mere classification of structural changes” (Meli).

Wellcome II, 180; not in Waller. D. Bertoloni Meli, ‘The Rise of Pathological Illustrations: Baillie, Bleuland, and Their Collections,’ Bulletin of the History of Medicine 89 (2015), 209-242; D. de Moulin, A History of Surgery: with Emphasis on the Netherlands, 1988.

Three parts in one vol., 4to (280 x 213 mm), pp. [iv], viii, [vi], 93 and 24 coloured plates; pp. 51 and 12 coloured plates; pp. 160 and 36 plates of which one is coloured. Contemporary calf, spine gilt, upper capital with well done repair. Internally crsip and clean.

Item #3917

Price: $14,500.00

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