Archives & Special Collections at the A. C. Long Health Sciences Library is pleased to announce the digitization of another of our classic anatomy texts, this time the 2nd (1737) edition of William Cowper’s The Anatomy of Humane Bodies (and, no, that’s not a typo but rather a variant 18th century spelling of “human”). It can be seen here:https://archive.org/details/ldpd_11735308_000
The plates are actually from an earlier work , the Dutch anatomist Govard Bidloo’s Anatomia Humani Corporis of 1685, and are considered “masterpieces of Dutch Baroque art.” For his first edition of 1698, Cowper purchased extra copies of the illustrations from Bidloo’s publisher, composed his own English text, and published it under his own name with no mention of Bidloo. Not surprisingly Bidloo was furious and a nasty international scientific spat ensued.
The illustrations in the 1737 edition were printed from Bidloo’s original plates and have been called “a key text in the new anatomical realism” of the late 17th-early 18th centuries as well as “a disturbing nightmare anatomy.” With pictures of arms emerging from books, corpses trussed up with hooks and ropes, and partially dissected heads it’s hard to disagree with that description.
The library’s copy was first repaired and renewed by professional book conservators at Butler Library’s Conservation Laboratory. Then the Columbia University Libraries’ Division of Preservation & Digital Conversion digitized the book with its overhead book scanner. The electronic version can be accessed through the Library’s online public catalog,CLIO, and via the Medical Heritage Library, a digital curation collaborative among some of the world’s leading medical libraries, including the Health Sciences Library.
The restoration of the volume was made possible by the Library’s Jerome P. Webster Fund