Miscellanea anatomica, hominis, brutorumque variorum, fabricam diversam magna parte exhibentia.

Amsterdam: Caspar Commelin, 1673.

First edition, rare, and a superb copy bound in contemporary red morocco, of this important work of human and comparative anatomy by the Dutch physician, chemist, and anatomist Gerard Blaes. The first 167 pages are devoted to human anatomy, followed by the description of the anatomy of various animals. “In the 1673 volume Blasius describes the anatomy of the following fourteen types: tortoise, duck, pigeon, ox, sheep, pig, dog, cat, civet-cat, fox, rat, hare and monkey … Blasius’ observations on human anatomy are followed by eight-five pages [168-252] devoted to the anatomy of the dog [illustrated with 12 plates]. This is the first comprehensive and original treatise on a vertebrate since the publication of Ruini’s volume on the horse in 1598. His reason for writing it was that owing to the difficulty of obtaining human bodies for dissection substitutes had to be found, of which the dog was one. It was hence imperative to acquire an exact knowledge of the points in which the dog resembled and differed from man. His approach to the dog, therefore, is not as a comparative but as a human anatomist” (Cole, A History of Comparative Anatomy (1949), pp. 150 & 154-5). The Miscellanea end with 15 pages of practical notes on rare cases observed during human dissections. ABPC/RBH record only the present copy. OCLC lists ten copies in US.

A flavour of Blasius’ treatment of animal anatomy can be gathered from his account of the tortoise. “The heart of the tortoise, he says, consists of but two chambers – an auricle and a ventricle … He evidently saw the origin from the ventricle of the common pulmonary artery, left aortic arch and innominate artery. His vein which passes “from the auricle into the liver” must have been the postcaval. The elaborate figure of the heart and respiratory organs with the head in the withdrawn position represents the aortic arches as being threaded through loops in the bronchi – a condition which would make the protrusion of the head a difficult and dangerous proceeding. His illustrations of the male genitalia … [are] accurate as regards the facts, but the parts are not correctly identified. His vesicular seminalis is the epididymis, and the parastata [epididymis] is the kidney. The ureter and vas deferens are distinguished but not lettered. In the gut the caecum is shown although its existence is denied in the text, and his detailed account of the “diaphragm” only convinces us that he saw the peritoneum” (Cole, pp. 152-3).

“Blasius, probably born around 1625 in Amsterdam, may have inherited his interest in inventions from his father, an architectural engineer employed by the kings of Denmark. For a while young Blasius lived in Holstein, and in 1645 he enrolled at the arts faculty in Leiden., where he graduated in medicine three years later. After practicing in Leiden, he moved to Amsterdam in 1655 … On 7 October 1659 Gerard was given permission to teach without pay. He did however take the opportunity to deliver an inaugural speech which, surprisingly, concerned recent inventions. On 4 September 1660 he was appointed the first professor of medicine at the Athenaeum [the predecessor of the University of Amsterdam] … Moreover, he was also appointed city physician. Blasius held another inaugural speech and from here his career gradually improved … Blasius’s allowance increased steadily, up to 900 guilders, to which 300 guilders were added from 1670 for his work as librarian. In addition, he saw the energy he put in to chairing disputations and publishing textbooks awarded with a full professorship.

“It was under Blasius that clinical medicine was introduced in Amsterdam in 1669: he was the first who guided the students through the wards at the Binnengasthuis. In addition to his post as city physician, he taught anatomical classes by dissecting the bodies of deceased patients at the hospital, as part of sessions with the company of pioneers known to history as the Collegium privatum; he organised botanical classes in the hospital’s herb garden; he practiced chemistry; and, during 1659-1666, he produced eight editions, translations and courses, as well as twenty-four disputations. It is clear, then, why Blasius sometimes complained about not having a servant. But his activities did not always lead to success. One student who complained of being bored during Blasius’s ‘daily, useless chemistry exercises’ was the Danish anatomist Niels Stensen, or Nicolaus Steno. During the dissection of a sheep’s head at Blasius’s home Steno discovered the duct for the glandula parotis, a discovery which resulted in an open dispute with the professor, who, initially unconvinced, claimed the discovery for himself in his Medicina generalis of 1661. In the row that followed, Steno, now studying in Leiden, triumphed, and the duct went into the books as ‘ductus Stenonianus’ … Nothing is heard about him after 1685, although we know that he remained a professor until his death in 1692” (Van Miert, Humanism in the Age of Science (2009), pp. 92-3).

The present work was reissued in 1676 with a different title, Zootomia, seu anatome variorum animalium – “pp. 1-228, which include the comparative anatomy, are identical in both editions” (Cole, p. 150, n. 1). In Observataiones anatomica in homine, simiâ, equo, vitulo, ove, testudine, echino, glire, serpente, ardeâ (1674), Blasius revised seven of his previous descriptions, and omitted seven, but added new ones on the snake, heron, hedgehog, and the spinal cord and nerves of the horse. In Anatome animalium, terrestrium variorum, volatilium, aquatilium, serpentum, insectorum, ovorumque, structuram naturalem (1681) all the preceding memoirs, except those on the monkey, cat, pig and horse, reappear with certain modifications, and a description of the dissection of a male tiger undertaken in 1677 is also printed, and for the first time. His most detailed investigations were confined to the dog, civet-cat, hedgehog, heron, tortoise and snake.

Garrison-Morton 560; Heirs of Hippocrates 296 (both incorrectly quoting Cole and referring only to Blasius’ Anatome animalium published in 1681, which Cole dismisses as “largely a compilation or textbook”).

Small 8vo (153 x 94 mm), pp. [xvi] (including engraved frontispiece showing an anatomical lecture), 309, [11], with 23 plates printed on 18 leaves (the plates are numbered I to XXIX but with IX, X, XIX, XXI and XXII omitted). Contemporary dark red morocco.

Item #4468

Price: $9,500.00