De dissectione partium corporis humani libri tres. Un cum figuris, & incisionum declarationibus, Stephano Riverio Chirurgo compositis.

Paris: Simon de Colines, 1545.

First edition, an exceptionally large copy, with all pinholes preserved (from the Norman collection), of “one of the finest woodcut books of the French Renaissance, in which science and art are ideally merged" (Schreiber), and “the most magnificent anatomical atlas of the sixteenth century, next to Vesalius’ Fabrica” (Hagelin). This copy dwarfs in size any other copy we have been able to obtain measurements of, even the noble copy, of Prince-Bishop of Wurzburg, described in Hagelin’s Rare and Important Medical Books. “Estienne’s main scientific work, De dissectione partium corporis humani (1545), poses a particular problem: although it was published two years after the Fabrica of Vesalius, it antedates it in actual composition. Estienne worked it out in collaboration with the surgeon Estienne de la Riviére (Riverius), who had probably done some dissection and also helped in preparing the plates. Estienne first used woodcuts executed by Jollat and stored in his father-in-law’s office (four plates are dated from 1530 to 1532); he then used various erotic engravings—among others—and inserted a special section that included internal anatomical details; finally (from 1534 to 1539), he had some original anatomical engravings made. In 1539 Estienne de la Riviére lodged a complaint at the Parlement against Estienne’s claiming his rights as author. The lawsuit delayed the publication of the work, two-thirds of which had already been printed and was subsequently submitted in 1541 to the Faculté de Médecine for approval. In the De Dissectione, Estienne stated at the outset the principle of the new anatomical method: ‘One should not believe in books on anatomy but far more in one’s own eyes.’ The book’s many original observations include the morphology and physiological significance of the “feeding holes” of bones, the cartilaginous meniscus of the temporomandibular joint, the orbicular ligament of the radius, the three-part composition of the sternum, the path of the trigeminal and phrenic nerves, a sharp distinction between the sympathetic chain (considered as a nerve) and the vagus, the canal of the ependyma and the enlargements of the spinal chord, the cerebrospinal fluid, the valvulae in the hepatic veins, and the scrotal septum. Estienne also described the ideal anatomical theater and expounded the technique of dissecting cadavers and wiring skeletons” (DSB). “Had De Dissectione been published, as originally intended in 1539, there is no question that it would have stolen much of the thunder from Vesalius's Fabrica (1543); it would have been the first work to show detailed illustrations of dissection in serial progression, the first to discuss and illustrate the total human body, the first to publish instructions on how to mount a skeleton, and the first to set the anatomical figures in a fully developed panoramic landscape, a tradition begun by Berengario da Carpi in his Commentaria. Despite its tardy appearance, however, De Dissectione was able to make numerous original contributions to anatomy, including the first published illustrations of the whole external venous and nervous systems, and descriptions of the morphology and purpose of the  'feeding holes' of bones, the tripartate composition of the sternum, the valvulae in the hepatic veins and the scrotal septum.  In addition, the work's eight dissections of the brain give more anatomical detail that had previously appeared” (Norman).

Provenance: A few marginalia in a contemporary hand; Carolo Moadini (early owner's signature); Haskell F. Norman (Bookplate, his sale part I, Christie's New York, 18 March 1998, lot 82).

Charles Estienne (ca. 1505-64) (also known as Carolus Stephanus), “the younger son of Henri I Estienne, was a member of the second generation of the Estienne dynasty of scholar-printers. His De Dissectione … was printed at the Estienne Press by his stepfather, Simon de Colines, who ran the press from Henri’s death until Charles’ brother Robert came of age.

“Estienne studied medicine in Paris, completing his training in 1540; in 1535, during his course of anatomical studies under Jacobus Sylvius, he had Andreas Vesalius as a classmate. At the time the only illustrated manuals of dissection available were the writings of Berengario de Carpi, and the need for an improved, well-illustrated manual must have been obvious to all students of anatomy, particularly the medical-student son of the one of the world’s leading publishers. Estienne did not hesitate to fulfil this need. The manuscript and illustrations for De dissectione were completed in 1539, and the book was set in type halfway through Book 3 and the last section, when publication was stopped by a lawsuit brought by Étienne de la Rivière, an obscure surgeon and anatomist who had attended lectures at the Paris faculty during 1533-36, overlapping the time of Estienne’s medical study in Paris. According to the account of Quesnay, Estienne may have attempted to plagiarize a manuscript of Étienne de la Rivière which the latter had turned over to him for translation from French into Latin. In the eventual settlement of the lawsuit, Estienne was requited to credit Rivière for the various anatomical preparations and for the pictures of the dissections” (Norman).

This delay in publication was significant, for it permanently obscured the importance of Estienne’s work. Not only was his treatise the first printed book to illustrate in its entirety the external venous and nervous systems, but it reaffirmed before Vesalius the empirical principle formulated by Berengario of the necessity of basing the study of anatomy on the physician’s observations of his own dissections. The fact that most of the illustrations seem to have been completed by the mid-1530s supports the view that Vesalius was influenced by Estienne’s work, which he would have seen during his stay in Paris in 1533-36 (cf. Herrlinger, p. 87).

‘In his De dissectione partium corporis humani libri tres, Stephanus offers probably one of the first descriptions of venous valves when he comments on the ‘apophyses membranarum’ in the veins of the liver. However, their function was a mystery to him. He made several good descriptions of the clavicular joints, spine and its ligaments, and the temporomandibular articulation. He was the first to trace blood vessels into the substance of bone. He first described what is now known as Glisson’s capsule of the liver and recognized that the esophagus and trachea were different organs. Additionally, his text emphasized the parotid, lacrimal, thymus, and lymphatics at the root of the mesentery, and the armpit and groin. Stephanus made many descriptions of the human nervous system. For example, he described the optic chiasm and hippocampus and illustrated these and many other intracranial structures often with great accuracy. Many of his plates demonstrated the step-by-step removal of the coverings of the brain and underlying intracranial contents. For example, he very accurately described the cerebral ventricles and illustrated them in his anatomy text. Most remarkable of his observations was that of the central canal of the spinal cord. He mentioned that Galen had not described all of the spinal nerves and added to our knowledge of the neuroanatomy of the spinal column with descriptions of this morphology …

“Stephanus’s anatomical illustrations vary considerably in quality with most regarding the nervous system being some of the most illustrative of his day. However, other earlier plates are clumsier and perhaps follow the older Venetian-Paduan examples. The latter plates approach the bold style of Buonarroti. Small wood blocks depicting the detailed results of actual dissections are inserted carefully into already existing larger blocks that show nudes, both male and female, in heroic poses in a variety of classical landscapes, exposed on marble seats or propped up against trees. Whether, as some have suggested, the printer Simone de Colines was simply using a set of blocks originally prepared for a totally different book is not clear. Others have argued that the classical background is deliberate, evoking the antiquity of dissection, and transmuting the gruesome horror of the detail of a corpse to the heroic world of the Greeks and Romans or of the gods themselves. Nonetheless, his anatomical work offers a great variety of images of parts of the body, most of them new when they were cut, some even going beyond what Vesalius would present in the Fabrica. For example, Stephanus’s description and drawings of the human sternum were very descriptive and refuted most Galenic teachings although many of his descriptions repeated Galenic errors” (Tubbs et al.).

“Estienne’s book – if one is to believe what he writes in his introduction – is not specifically addressed to medical students and is not intended as an ‘academic’ book. He rejects the prolixity and ponderous character of such books, preferring brief accounts so that ‘you [readers] can easily understand’. Readers are like friends with whom he shares the same cultural interests, to whom he wants to offer the kind of work through which they can appreciate ‘the beauty of what divine providence has created’, inviting them to admire ‘nature's incredible accuracy’ and especially to praise God ‘who has created in the body nothing in vain, nothing without a reason, nothing superfluous". These themes are a part of anatomical discourse and one finds them echoed in the anatomical fugitive sheets. The association of text and image promotes this emphasis on the spiritual and religious aspects of anatomy, and puts to one side, formally at least, more narrowly didactic concerns, setting as it does knowledge of the human body within an intellectual discourse whose boundaries extend beyond those of medicine and of what we call today "science". In the introduction to the De dissection partium corporis humani, Estienne in fact insists on the pleasure derived from a knowledge of anatomy which he sees as an aesthetic and ecstatic experience: written and drawn anatomy are both aimed at gratifying and delighting (pascere and oblectere are the verbs he uses) the soul as much as the eye. The purpose of juxtaposing images with the text is thus not only to transmit knowledge untranslatable into words, nor does it have a merely mnemonic or synthesising function, as would a didactic or academic book. Such a function was, to be sure, quite new at the time, but it was an obvious one, and the images in Estienne's book go further than that: they are the means by which the reader can bring together the intellectual pleasure of knowledge and aesthetic enjoyment. Ornamental and landscape elements, architectural structures and classical remains, the attributes and gestures of figures, inscriptions and cartouches – all already there, though to a much smaller extent, in the iconography of Berengario’s treatises – frame the anatomical iconography in such a way that each figure can in itself tell a story which is no longer merely scientific or purely descriptive. These are not only decorative or appended elements, as has been suggested elsewhere, but iconographical devices used to bolster an enjoyment of the anatomy, a mode of transmission of knowledge and meaning.

“The illustrations of the womb and of the female reproductive organs are, in this respect, of particular interest. They were probably executed by François Jollat, while the woodcut inserts which represent the internal anatomy are certainly the work of the surgeon Étienne de la Rivière. Eight of these images are simply adaptations of some of the figures in Gli amori degli dei, a series of eighteen erotic prints commissioned by Baviera, drawn by Perinodel Vagaand Rosso Fiorentino, and engraved by Giovanni Jacopo Caraglio a short while before the sack of Rome (1527) – a series that enjoyed a relative success during the course of the sixteenth century. Jollat's choice of these as the models for the female figures, evidently one which Estienne accepted or suggested, is not accidental, and it seems to me to point to a conception of the transmission of learning which promoted images as the source of its ‘aesthetic’ enjoyment. That such a conception existed is explicitly borne out by the recourse to iconographical models from contemporary artistic production, which Berengario had in part already begun – with subsequent repercussions in anatomical iconography. This strategy of communication, moreover, was reinforced in its goals by the specific choice of the prints by Giovanni Jacopo Caraglio as the iconographical structure within which to represent the female reproductive organs, and by the obviously erotic character of Jollat’s images, which remained in spite of their having been adapted to suit anatomical instruction. These eight illustrations – together with a few others showing female genitals – in which women in manifestly lascivious and ecstatic positions, were used for the purpose of anatomical representation are an explicit expression of the latent association between eroticism and anatomy” (Carlino).

Adams S-1725; Carlino, ‘Paper Bodies: A Catalogue of Anatomical Fugitive Sheets 1538-1687,’ Medical History 43 (1999), Supplement S19, pp. 5-45; Choulant-Frank, pp. 152-155; Garrison-Morton 378; Heirs of Hippocrates 256; Herrlinger, History of Medical Illustration, from Antiquity to AD 1600, 1970; Kellett, ‘Perino del Vaga et les illustrations pour l'anatomie d’Estienne,’ Aesculape 37 (1955), pp. 74-89; McHenry, p. 40; Norman 728; Philadelphia Museum of Art, 5c; Renouard Colines pp. 409-410; Sappol, Dream Anatomy, pp. 2, 75, 94-97; Schreiber, Colines 222 and pp. x xxiv-xxxvi; Stillwell Science 626; Tubbs, Loukas & Tubbs, ‘The 16th century anatomist Carolus Stephanus and his contributions to neuroanatomy,’ JSM Neurosurgery and Spine 2 (2014), pp. 1014-5; Wellcome 6076.



Folio (392 x 260 mm, with all pinholes preserved). Contemporary binding of vellum over pasteboard, the upper layer of the boards from a 14th-century manuscript in a small gothic script, contemporary manuscript title lettering along lower edges, later lettering on upper cover and spine, traces of four pairs of ties (18th-century vellum rebacking, some wear). Collation: *-**6; A-Z8 AA6. 202 leaves. Roman type, side-notes and index in italic. Printer's woodcut device (Schreiber's "Tempus I") on title. 62 full-page woodcut illustrations printed from 56 blocks, one signed S.R. (Stephanus Riverius), 7 others signed by Jean Jollat, either with his name or with his Mercury symbol, a few dated 1530, 1531 or 1532, 4 of these plus one other cut signed with the Lorraine cross and cut by the Tory master (Jacquemin Woeiriot?), 101 small woodcut diagrams in the text (including repeats). 9-, 6- and 3-line white-on-black crible initials, a few 3-line woodcut initials. (Marginal foxing, some spotting in quires L-S, marginal soiling to title, leaves in first 2 quires tearing slightly along upper gutters, a few minor marginal wormholes at front, short marginal tears to 4 or 5 leaves.) Contemporary vellum over pasteboard, the upper layer of the boards from a 14th-century manuscript in a small gothic script, contemporary manuscript title lettering along lower edges, later lettering on upper cover and spine, traces of four pairs of ties (18th-century vellum rebacking, some wear). Provenance: A few marginalia in a contemporary hand; Carolo Moadini (early owner's signature); Haskell F. Norman (bookplate; his sale part I, Christie's New York, 18 March 1998, lot 82).

Item #5265

Price: $95,000.00

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