Open Access

A census of the edition of 1555 of Andreas Vesalius' De Humani Corporis Fabrica

International Archives of Medicine20092:26

DOI: 10.1186/1755-7682-2-26

Received: 27 July 2009

Accepted: 8 September 2009

Published: 8 September 2009

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to determine the locations of the second edition (1555) of the De Humani Corporis Fabrica written by Vesalius.

Contacts were made with institutions of higher learning, museum libraries, and libraries of national collections, libraries of research institutions, cathedral libraries, antique book dealers, trade journals, book auctions and private collectors.

A total of 113 copies of the 1555 Fabrica were found in University and Institutional Libraries. Of them, 33 (29%) were in the United Kingdom; 35 (31%) in Europe and 45 (40%) in the USA. Location of the second edition Vesalius in private collections was more difficult to objectively determine and accounts for approximately 10% of the second Edition books in the census.

Introduction

In 1555, the Belgian anatomist Andreas Vesalius, together with his publisher, Johannes Oporinus of Basel, produced a second folio edition of this revolutionary work De Humani Corporis Fabrica.

Cushing included an incomplete list of holdings of all Vesalian works that he traced as part of this Bio-bibliography of Andreas Vesalius, what he calls an "Index of Recorded Copies [1] A later census of the 1543 edition, compiled by Horowitz and Collins and published in 1984, was created as a result of their research into variant variant copies of that edition[2] In 1994, Elly Cockx-Indestege published the results of her research into every copy of every pre-1800 edition of all Vesalius' works held in Belgian collections, including five copies of the 1555 edition [1].

This report presents a list of copies of the second edition of (1555) De Humani Corporis written by Vesalius and their institutional locations 450 years since publication.

Materials and methods

A great boon to the 21st-century researcher is the development of the internet. The number of university and institutional libraries which are searchable online means that the libraries of over 200 institutions could be searched in a matter of several months.

While these innovations have undoubtedly shortened dramatically the amount of time researchers have to spend physically turning the pages of printed catalogues, the "detective techniques" used by Owen Gingerich in his Great Copernicus Chase still provide the mainstay of this research. Many libraries were not yet online, or are in the process of being made available online. Letters of enquiry, consultation with dealers, advertising in bibliophilic journals, and systematic checking through the multivolume Book Auction Records and original auction catalogues have therefore all been vital to the collection and collation of the information in this catalogue.

The method of researching copies held in institution libraries was relatively straightforward. Once it had been ascertained which institutions owned copies of the 1555 edition, requests were sent to the relevant librarians for any bibliographical details that did not appear in their online catalogues. In some cases, such further information was not available and wherever possible, the original copy was then examined in person in the United Kingdom. That this catalogue is so complete is due in the main to those librarians, who went out of their way to help this research, both through their own investigations, suggestions and comments, and the ability to cross-reference information provided.

Discovering copies held in private collections was a more involved process. Auction houses were naturally discreet with regard to their clients' identities; records from the earlier sales often do not survive, and catalogue descriptions from pre-1980s catalogues tend to be brief.

While recent catalogues provide a great deal of detailed bibliographic information, those dating from earlier than the mid-seventies do not supply much information beyond basic notes on the completeness and condition of the copy. This brevity of description makes it difficult to identify the copy in question, which in turn means that it is difficult to guarantee that the same copy, sold in different sales in different countries was not counted as two separate copies. Unfortunately, unless an owner, knowing the provenance of his or her copy, recognizes it on the list of those sold at auction, there is no way of remedying this particular problem.

The Book Auction Records for the past 100 years have been searched, and it has sometimes been possible to trace the movement of a single copy from sale to sale. Catalogues for individual sales have also been looked at, though even those containing the auctioneer's own notations usually give not further clue to the provenance, seller or buyer of the copy in question. Even those auction houses that are still in business are unlikely to be in possession of any further information. As in the case of Southerans, whose records were destroyed in the Blitz of the Second World War, records often just no longer exist.

Although the chronological scope of the catalogue was originally intended to cover the past century, the lack of information available has meant that though sales from the early 20th century have been included, it is only in a very few cases that the present day whereabouts of those copies is known.

For more recent sales, Christie's and Sotheby's, as the auction house through which the vast majority of more recent copies have been sold, have been exceptionally helpful. Within the boundaries of their client confidentiality, both companies have enabled the present owners of most copies to be established.

Auction and dealer sales in the United Kingdom were examined from the year 1900 to 2006. The copies were then tabulated to report as accurately as possible the copies known to currently exist in both private and public collections. Those books in private collections were personally reviewed or third party verified.

Results

Results are presented as a geographic list of holdings within the United Kingdom Europe (Table 1 and 2) and the USA (Table 3). As well as complete works, there are some instances where fragmentary copies (usually comprising solely of the illustrations) are held. These have been excluded in the main body of the census. Also provided is the list of copies known to have been sold through auction houses and dealers during the last century (Table 4). These copies are placed in the chronological order of their last appearance on the market. The last known location is given for these privately held copies. It is certain that in many cases the copy is now held somewhere else.
Table 1

Copies held in University and Institution Libraries in the United Kingdom (UK)

I. ABERDEEN

Aberdeen University Special Libraries and Archives

2. BIRMINGHAM

Central England University

3. CAMBRIDGE

Cambridge University, Caius College Library

4. CAMBRIDGE

Cambridge University, Emmanuel College Library

5. CAMBRIDGE

Cambridge University, St John's College Library

6. CAMBRIDGE

Cambridge University Library, Copy 1

7. CAMBRIDGE

Cambridge University Library, Copy 2

8. CAMBRIDGE

Cambridge University School of Anatomy Library

9. DURHAM

Durham University, Palace Green Library

10. EDINBURGH

Edinburgh University Library, Copy 1

11. EDINBURGH

Edinburgh University Library, Copy 2

12. EDINBURGH

The Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh

13. EXETER

Exeter Cathedral Library

14. GLASGOW

Glasgow University, Glasgow University Library Special Collections

15. LIVERPOOL

Liverpool University, Sydney Jones Library Special Collections

16. LONDON

The British Library

17. LONDON

University College London Special Collections, Copy 1

18. LONDON

University College London Special

19. LONDON

National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum

20. LONDON

Royal Academy of Arts Library

21. LONDON

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

22. LONDON

The Royal College of Physicians London

23. LONDON

The Royal Society

24. LONDON

The Science Museum

25. LONDON

Wellcome Trust Library History of Medicine Collections

26. MANCHESTER

Manchester University, John Rylands Library Special Collections, Copy 1

27. MANCHESTER

Manchester University, John Rylands Library Special Collections, Copy 2

28. NEWCASTLE

Newcastle University, Robinson Library Special Collection

29. OXFORD

Oxford University Bodleian Library, Copy 1

30. OXFORD

Oxford University Bodleian Library, Copy 2

31. OXFORD

Oxford University, Corpus Christi Library

32. READING

Reading University, Whiteknights Library

33. WELLS

Wells Cathedral Library

Table 2

Copies held in University and Institution Libraries in Europe (Excluding the UK)

1. AARHUS

Aarhus Technical Library

2. AARHUS

State and University Library

3. AUGSBURG

State Library of Augsburg

4. BAYERN

Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

5. BERGEN

University of Bergen

6. BOLOGNA

University of Bologna

7. COLOGNE

German National Library of Medicine

8. COPENHAGEN

Danish National Library of Science and Medicine

9. DUBLIN

Royal College of Surgeons

10. ERLANGEN

University of Erlangen-Nurnberg

11. HALLE

Goettingen State and University Library

12. HALLE

University of Halle, Copy 1

13. HALLE

University of Halle, Copy 2

14. HALLE

German Academy of Naturforscher

15. HELSINKI

Helsinki University

16. JENA

University of Jena, Copy 1

17. JENA

University of Jena, Copy 2

18. LIVORNO

Communal Library

19. MADRID

University of Madrid, Copy 1

20. MADRID

University of Madrid, Copy 2

21. MADRID

University of Madrid, Copy 3

22. MUNICH

University of Munich

23. OSLO

Bibliotekformedisinoghelsefag

24. OSLO

Bibliotek for Medicine

25. PADOVA

Library of Seminario Maggiore

26. PADOVA

University of Padova

27. ROME

Biblioteca Casanatense

28. ROME

Biblioteca Medica Statale

29. ROME

University of Sassari

31. VIENNA

Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek

32. WOLFENBUTTEL

Herzog Anton Library, Copy 1

33. WOLFENBUTTEL

Herzog Anton Library, Copy 2

34. WOLFENBUTTEL

Herzog Anton Library, Copy 3

35. ZURICH

University of Zurich

Table 3

Copies in University and Institution Library in United States of America (US)

1. ALBANY, NY

New York State Library

2. ANN ARBOR, MI

University of Michigan, Copy 1

3. ANN ARBOR, MI

University of Michigan, Copy 2

4. AUSTIN, TX

University of Texas

5. BALTIMORE, MD

The Johns Hopkins University, Copy 1

6. BALITMORE, MD

The Johns Hopkins University, Copy 2

7. BALTIMORE, MD

National Library of Medicine

8. BOSTON, MA

Boston University

9. BOSTON, MA

Boston Public Library

10. CAMBRIDGE, MA

Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology

11. CAMBRIDGE, MA

Harvard University, Copy 1

12. CAMBRIDGE, MA

Harvard University, Copy 2

13. CAMBRIDGE, MA

Harvard University, Copy 3

14. CAMBRIDGE, MA

Harvard University, Copy 4

15. CHARLOTTSVILLE, VA

University of Virginia, Copy 1

16. CHARLOTTSVILLE, VA

University of Virginia, Copy 2

17. CHICAGO, IL

Northwestern University

18. CHICAGO, IL

University of Illinois

19. CLEVELAND, OH

Case Western Reserve University

20. COLUMBUS, OH

Ohio State University

21. DALLAS, TX

University of Texas SW Medical Centre

22. DENVER, CO

University of Colorado

23. HANOVER, NH

Dartmouth College

24. IOWA CITY, IA

University of Iowa

25. KANSAS CITY, KS

University of Kansas Medical Center

26. LOS ANGELES, CA

University of California, Copy 1

27. LOS ANGELES, CA

University of California, Copy 2

28. MINNEAPOLIS, MN

University of Minnesota

29. NASHVILLE, TN

Vanderbilt University, Copy 1

30. NASHVILLE, TN

Vanderbilt University, Copy 2

31. NEW HAVEN, CT

Yale University, Copy 1

32. NEW YORK, NY

New York Academy of Medicine

33. OKLAHOMA CITY, OK

University of Oklahoma

34. OMAHA, NE

University of Nebraska

35. PHILADELPHIA, PA

Thomas Jefferson University

36. PHILADELPHIA, PA

University of Pennsylvania, Copy 1

37. PHILADELPHIA, PA

University of Pennsylvania, Copy 2

38. PHILADELPHIA, PA

College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Copy 1

39. PHILADELPHIA, PA

College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Copy 2

40. PHILADELPHA, PA

College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Copy 3

41. PITTSBURGH, PA

University of Pittsburgh

42. PORTLAND, OR

Oregon Health Science University

43. ROCHESTER, NY

University of Rochester

44. SALT LAKE CITY, UT

University of Utah

45. WASHINGTON, DC

Institute of Medicine

CANADA

 

1. VANCOUVER BC, CANADA

University of British Columbia

Table 4

United Kingdom (UK) auction and dealer sales 1900- To Date (July 2009)

1. 2003:

H.M. Fletcher, Hertfordshire, Location: UK Private

2. 2002

Quaritch, London, Location: UK Private

3. 2001

WP Watson, London, Location: UK Private

4. 20.10.99

Christie's London, Location: Private

5. 26.11.97

Christie's London, Location: Bought by US dealer, Martyan Lan Inc, New York in partnerships with UK dealer, Rick Watson and later sold.

6. 5.12.96

Sotheby's London, Location: Sold to a Spanish dealer

7. 31.3.95

Christie's South Kensington, Location: UK private

8. 11.11.94

Sotheby's London, Location: US private, Goodrich

9. 18.5.89

Sotheby's London, Location: UK private

10. 16.11.88

Christie's London, Location: Sold to UK deal, Pickering & Chatto, now UK private

11. 14.4.88

Sotheby's London, Location: US, Boston University Library

12. 2.11.81

Sotheby's London, Location: ? Bennett

13. 17.6.81

Sotheby's London, Location: UK dealer, Quaritch (no further records available)

14. 17.6.68

Sotheby's London, Location: UK dealer, Dawson

15. 17.10.67

Sotheby's London, Location: US dealer, HS Levinson

16. 9.11.60

Sotheby's London, Location: UK dealer, Weil

17. 21.7.59

Sotheby's London, Location: UK dealer, Dawson

18. 21.5.58

Christie's London, Location: UK dealer, Weil (Later offered for sale in Weil Cat 28, no. 256)

19. 1950s

Simon Weil, London, Cat 22 no. 293, Location: Unknown

20. 16.7.51

Sotheby's London, Location: UK, HM Stationery Office

21.26.7.49

Sotheby's London, Location: UK dealer, Weil

22. 12.5.48

Hodgson and Son London, Location: UK dealer, King

23. 11.5.48

Sotheby's London, Location: UK dealer, Southeran (records since destroyed)

24. 19.3.47

Sotheby's London, Location: UK dealer, Edwards

25. 26.1.45

Hodgson and Son London, Location: UK dealer, Robinson

26. 30.3.44

Hodgson and Son London, Location: UK dealer, HK Lewis

27. 9.5.44

Sotheby's London, Location: UK dealer, Edwards

28. 31.3.43

Dowell's Edinburgh, Location: Unknown

29. 10.6.41

Sotheby's London, Location: UK dealer, Edwards

30. 6.2.34

Sotheby's London, Location: UK dealer, Duke

31.23.7.34

Sotheby's London, Location: UK dealer, Edwards

32. 1.6.31

Sotheby's London, Location: UK dealer, Dave and Orioli (Later offered for sale in Davies and Orioli Cat 132, no. 236)

33. 15.5.30

Hodgson and Son London, Location: UK dealer, Salamander

34. 14.5.25

Hodgson and Son London, Location: UK dealer, Lubrano

35. 17.3.24

Sotheby's London, Location: UK dealer, Edwards

36. 20.12.22

Hodgson and Son London, Location: UK dealer, Leighton

37. 31.7.13

Sotheby's London, Location: UK dealer, Maggs

38. 21.6.10

Sotheby's London, Location: UK dealer, Sawyer

39. 24.6.09

Hodgson and Son London, Location: Unknown

40. 5.12.06

Sotheby's London, Location: ?, Hozier

41. 12.7.06

Christie's London, Location: Private, Kirk

Twenty one of the copies sold at auction were subsequently bought by dealers of which nineteen (90%) were UK dealers. Eleven books are definitely in private collections today; another three were initially bought privately but could not be found.

This means of 74 books recorded as being present in the UK over the last century, only 42 are known to still be held there, of which 33 are confirmed to be at Universities or Public Institutions and at least nine are in private collections. The remaining 32 second edition Vesalius are probably now in private and university collections in the USA and Europe and are included in the Tables.

Eleven copies are confirmed to be privately owned by direct inspection or third party verification.

Due to security risks, privacy and the desire for anonymity, it was difficult to document additional books. Most of the books previously owned privately have been donated to University and Institutions, especially in the USA due to the tax benefits obtained by the donor.

Discussion

Both Cushing and Cockx-Indestege's research took over 20 years to complete and despite the limiting of this census to one edition of one of Vesalius' works, it is till a huge undertaking [1, 3].

The development of the internet is a great boon to the 21st-century researcher. University and institutional libraries are now searchable online; libraries of over 200 institutions could be rapidly searched. These innovations have shortened the time researchers need to spend physically turning the pages of printed catalogues.

Harvey Cushing, in his Bio-bibliography of Andreas Vesalius, recorded 25 copies in the US and only four copies in the UK of the first edition. This article presents the results of an attempt to enumerate and list the location of second edition copies.

The 1555 edition was more sumptuous than the 1543 first edition. It was printed on thicker paper, set in larger type and had more widely spaced lines. Vesalius made both stylistic and factual changes, and in some cases this required the design and production of a new initial letter woodblock. The new illustrations, with the exception of the title page, are generally considered to be even finer than those in the 1543 edition.

This second edition also had several textual alterations, including a revised chapter on embryology, a description of the venous valves, and two new chapters. No documentary evidence remains for the decision behind the production of a second edition except possibly to answer specific criticisms of the content leveled at the first edition and for Vesalius to answer his detractors in the new edition.

In addition, the market for the Fabrica remained strong as evidenced by the production in Lyons of an unauthorized cheaper pocket edition in 1552, as soon as the protective privilege granted to Vesalius by the French king had expired. This suggests that during the early 1550s, about the time that Vesalius and Oporinus began planning their second edition, demand for an expensive illustrated second version of the Fabrica remained high enough to make the effort and financial outlay of its production worthwhile.

An ideal starting point for a census would be to determine how many copies of the edition were originally printed. In the case of the 1555 Fabrica, however, the question cannot be answered conclusively as there are no surviving records of the print-run.

Records do survive from a printing house contemporary with that of Oporinus, though in a different country. Christoffel Plantjin or Plantin, as he is more familiarly known (1514-89), opened his printing house in Antwerp in the same year that the second edition of the Fabrica was produced. Plantin and his family kept detailed records of their business transactions, the survival of which is considered so rare that in 2001 the records were included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.

Then, as now, the number of copies to be printed of a book was decided by its potential market. Some editions were printed to order, and these ranged from 12-120 copies. However, as Leon Voet points out in The Golden Compasses, Plantin's son-in-law made it plain that such small runs did not make good financial sense, and editions were usually much larger. Although print-runs were flexible and could be altered according to his anticipation of the market, Plantin usually produced runs of 1,250 for ordinary editions, while works in great demand could be produced in editions of up to 2,500. However, most medical treatises, among certain other categories of book, were produced in runs of only 800.

From this evidence, it would seem likely the 1543 print run of the Fabrica, with its extraordinarily complex and numerous illustrations, would have been produced in numbers from the lower end of that scale, say about 800-1,000, and that the 1555 edition was also produced in similar numbers.

Conclusion

This article presents in list form 113 copies of Andreas Vesalius' 1555 edition of De Humani Corporis Fabrica known to be held worldwide. Over the last century, a total of 74 second edition Vesalius' are recorded as having been in the UK. Only 42 copies are definitely now in the UK, with 33 in University and Institution Libraries. A further 35 (31%) of second edition books are in Europe and 45 (40%) in the USA.

It is estimated that over the last 450 years, between 10-15% of the 1555 edition of De Humani Corporis have survived and of these, the majority (90%) are in University and Public Institutional Libraries with very few now remaining in private collections.

Declarations

Acknowledgements

To Andrea Carr, MA, grateful thanks for her masterful help in determining the location of many of these books and undertaking the basic research.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
The Medical History Institute, The Joffe Foundation

References

  1. Cushing , Harvey : A Bio-bibliography of Andreas Vesalius 2 Edition Archon Books 1962, 91. 218–9
  2. Horowitz M, Collins J: 'A Census of Copies of the First Edition of Andreas Vesalius' De Humani Corporis Fabrica (1543), with a note on the Recently Discovered Variant Issue'. J Hist Med Allied Sci 1984, 39:198–221.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
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  4. Gingerich , Owen : The Great Copernicus Chase and other adventures in astronomical history Cambridge University Press 1991, 71.
  5. Tobis , Philip : Into the Past 2 Edition Publ Picador, Johannesburg Reference to 'Oscar I. Norwich' 147.
  6. Voet , Leon : The Gold Compasses Vangendt & Co, Amsterdam 1969, II:344.Google Scholar

Copyright

© Joffe. 2009

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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