Bologna: Heirs of Giovanni Rossi, 1598.
First edition, the highly scarce first issue, of “one of the great rarities of early zootomical literature” (Cole, p. 90), with illustrations considered comparable to those in Vesalius’ Fabrica. “The unusual rarity of the first edition might be partially explained by the fact that a portion of the sheets of the first edition were reissued the following year by Gaspare Bindoni in Venice. Copies of this second issue, which is also rare, contain a cancel title and a different dedication leaf, changing the dedication to Ceìsar, Duke of Vendôme, natural son of Henri IV” (Norman). “His book is the first devoted to the anatomy of an animal, and is one of the finest achievements of the heroic age of Anatomy” (Singer, The Evolution of Anatomy, p. 153, with three plates reproduced). “At the hands of Ruini the subject of equine anatomy jumped at a single bound from the blackest ignorance to relative perfection, the degree of which it is difficult to exaggerate” (Smith, The Early History of Veterinary Literature and its British Development, Vol. 1, p. 209). “As the author of the first book devoted exclusively to the structure of an animal other than man, Ruini ranks among the founders of both comparative anatomy and veterinary medicine. This is all the more remarkable as he was not a physician, or even a veterinarian, but a Bolognese aristocrat, senator, and high-ranking lawyer. Following the example of Vesalius, Ruini stressed the importance of “artful instruction” about all parts of the horse’s body, the diseases that afflict them, and their cures. The first part of his work gives an exhaustive treatment of equine anatomy, with especially good accounts of the sense organs; it is illustrated with sixty-four full-page woodcuts, of which the last three, showing a stripped horse in a landscape setting, were clearly inspired by the Vesalian “muscleman” plates. The second part of the work deals with equine diseases and their cures from a traditional Hippocratic-Galenic standpoint. Some scholars, basing their arguments on Ruini’s description of the horse’s heart and blood vessels, believe that Ruini was active in the discovery of the greater and lesser circulatory systems. This is unlikely, but it is probable that he was one of many at that time who had a notion of the circulation of the blood” (Norman).
Provenance: Ex-libris ‘Ad uso di Paolo Marendi[a] Salecchi’; another ex-libris crossed out on title. From the library of Jean Blondelet. “Jean Blondelet was probably the greatest, but least known, French collector of rare medical and scientific books in the 20th century.” (Jeremy Norman).
❧Bird 2111; Dibner 186; Durling 3991 (all the second issue); Garrison and Morton 285; Mortimer (Italian) 448; Norman 1858; Cole, History of comparative anatomy, p. 83 et seq. (with 9 plates reproduced).
“In the first volume, which deals mainly with anatomy, Ruini includes notes on physiology that reflect his teleological Galenic approach. In the first book the morphology of the head is described in detail. The second book deals with the neck and its organs, the lungs, the heart, and the thoracic muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. The third book covers the liver, spleen, kidneys, stomach, intestines, peritoneum, and bladder. The structures of these organs and their positions are described, as are the lumbosacral region and its muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. The fourth book describes the genital system, and the fifth deals with the extremities.Volume II deals specifically with equine diseases and their cures. Explaining that he has followed the methods used by Aristotle, Hippocrates, and Galen to describe the human body, Ruini considers equine pathology, beginning with conditions of a general nature, such as fever, before progressing to descriptions of specific diseases. He considered it necessary to place pathology on a constitutional foundation because he believed that from knowledge of the horse’s physical disposition one could more easily understand the nature of disease; also, from knowing the age of the horse, one could determine the appropriate treatment at any phase of an illness. At the beginning of the first book, Ruini discusses at length the four Galenic humors (choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic, and melancholic) and ways of telling a horse’s age. He then offers a detailed analysis of fever, distinguishing three types, giving general causes and a general cure, and discussing fevers of various origins.
“The second book considers various types of horse in regard to humoral pathology, using criteria based essentially on the concept of the four qualities (hot, cold, moist, dry). Ruini then examines a series of “affections” of the brain: frenzy, rage or fury, and insanity, leading to convulsions and paralysis. The book concludes with the diseases of the neck. In the third book Ruini describes the diseases of the heart and the lungs; in the fourth, the afflictions of the digestive tract, from diarrhea to jaundice; and in the fifth, hernia, diseases of the testicles and penis, and problems of obstetrics. The sixth book deals with the diseases of the legs.
“On the whole, Ruini’s treatise was still closely bound to the Scholastic tradition. It does, however, show the effort made by its author, who must certainly have known the work of Vesalius, to produce a work that would manifest the new direction being taken by sixteenth-century anatomy. Because it was so traditional, his treatment of pathology, although minutely detailed, is less valuable than his study of anatomy. A pioneer in the latter field, Ruini deserves to be ranked among the founders of comparative anatomy, along with Vesalius, Belon, Rondelet, and Coiter” (DSB).
“The artist who designed the figures for Ruini may have been from the same Titian workshop that Vesalius used; at the very least, they show the same attention to detail, realism, and dynamism as those in the Fabrica. A side-by-side comparison of images from both texts confirms hoe deliberate were Ruini’s replications. For example, he offers an ecorché head that approximates those we find in the Fabrica, as well as other contemporary anatomies. His horses give up their anatomical secrets while in motion, or awkwardly elongated for the convenience of the observer, or are portrayed in static poses “suspended” by ribbons or ropes (perhaps an ironic twist on Vesalius’s propped de-muscled skeletons). Ruini’s diagrams of nerves and blood vessels resemble similar pictures for various of the human anatomies, some in full abstraction from the body, others in the context of the horse’s full physical form …“Why would an animal anatomy, and specifically one of the horse, have merited such an elaborate and beautifully illustrated volume as Ruini’s? And if an author were determined to create one of an animal species, why not an anatomy of the ape, or the dog, or the pig, all of which are far closer in physiology to humans and more commonly dissected by anatomists? Indeed, the horse is quite distant, anatomically speaking, from humans, and its physiology has little bearing on knowledge of human bodies. It would seem an anomalous undertaking, given the importance of Vesalius and the human anatomists for Ruini’s project. The obvious reason has to do with the horse’s traditional position in a hierarchy of creatures as a “noble” beast … For Ruini, the horse is “endowed with so many both commendable and rare qualities that one does not find in any other being deprived of reason” … In Ruini’s estimation, the horse combines “great love of man” with natural docility and is so celebrated for its many ways to bring “pleasure and assistance” to man that it is everywhere commemorated in monuments, tombs, poetry, and paintings …
“Another possible explanation for his choice of species derives from Ruini’s social and educational position vis-à-vis the medical establishment … Ruini was an educated Bolognese layman, possibly a lawyer and a senator with no special training in medicine, and so could clearly not participate directly in the human medical revolution of his generation as a physician or human anatomist. He was, however, tutored by the Aristotelian philosopher Claudio Betti, and had a large “collection” of horses; thus, “although lacking membership in the university,” he was “able to conduct the studies reflected in his early and only masterpiece” … One of the advances that Vesalius’s Fabrica and other anatomy texts effected was the extension of new forms and domains of knowledge through printed sources to those with an interest in them and the wealth to purchase them. The actual practice of anatomy and the dissection of humans, however, was limited to those in professional training, something a gentleman like Ruini could not attempt. But the concept of amassing medical knowledge and contributing to the burgeoning field of anatomical study was both seductive and available to a well-educated and wealthy gentleman like Ruini; being tutored by an expert in natural philosophy made Ruini a budding scientist himself, an aspirant whose gentlemanly status would not be compromised by amateur writing on a related field” (Raber, Animal Bodies, Renaissance Culture, pp. 46-54).
Carlo Ruini (ca. 1530-1598) died before his work was published but his son Ottavio saw it through the press. A total of 15 editions appeared between 1598 and 1769; the original blocks were only used for this first, and were then recut for the 1618 and subsequent editions.
Two vols. in one, folio (322 x 225 mm), contemporary unrestored vellum with manuscript lettering to spine, pp.  1-295 , ; [2:part-title] [2:blank] 1-386 , 64 full-page woodcut illustrations accompanied by printed keys, some light spotting through (much less than is usually found in this work). A very fine copy in strictly contemporary state and with no restorations at all. Highly scarce in such fine condition.