28 November 2008

anatomical flap books, digital archives revisited

Since I've posted here before on anatomy flaps in early modern books (and the inability of the digital archive to handle them), I thought I'd share some things I found today. First, the fun: a flap book of a brain and an eye, grabbed from Ptak Science Books, which grabbed it from Duke University Medical Center Library's online exhibit of Georg Bartisch's Ophthalmodouleia Das ist Augendienst (1583) (photographs by Dr. George O. D. Rosenwasser).

Next, I don't know how this has escaped me, since this project looks a few years old, but the Hardin Library at the University of Iowa has posted a digital edition of Johann Remmelin's Catoptrum microcosmicum (1619), the anatomical flapbook to end all anatomical flapbooks. From the library's page:
Remmelin was town physician in Ulm and later Augsberg where he also served as plague physician. While at Ulm, he conceived the notion of producing an anatomy that could be used to reveal in successive layers, the muscles, bones, and viscera of the human body. He employed one of the leading Augsburg artists, Lucas Kilian (1579-1637) to render the engravings which were based on Remmelin’s own drawings. In 1613, some of his friends had the copper plates engraved at their own expense and published them without Remmelin’s approval. In 1619, Remmelin published his own edition, complete with text and other explanatory material. This is the edition displayed here.

The work was printed using eight separate plates which were then cut apart and pasted together to make the three large plates. In some cases a single illustration may have as many as 15 successive layers which can be teased apart to reveal both surface and deep structures. In keeping with the practice of the day, Remmelin incorporates a variety of metaphysical and allegorical images and adages into the plates. The title, Catoptrum microcosmicum, [microcosmic mirror] reflects the classical notion of man as microcosm, i.e., the epitome, of the universe.

What's noteworthy about the Hardin Library's digital edition, though, is that it makes an attempt to show the movement of the flaps by showing a kind of "before" and "after" image, even showing the hand in the photograph. See:

That's a uterus, by the way. I probably could have chosen a less disgusting image.

It's a neat attempt, although the navigation is wonky, and I really hate that the images aren't color. I'd be curious to see more such attempts to animate the archives.


Anonymous said...

I am disturbed by your claim that the uterus is "disgusting" while the other (less feminine?) body parts are not. Otherwise, this was a great post. Thanks for sharing the Remmelin.

Whitney said...

No need to be disturbed, I don't think an image of an open uterus is any more disgusting than an image of any other open body part. :) I mean, I didn't go into surgery. There is something kind of -- ticklish? -- about seeing a finger holding it down. That goes for any of the Remmelin images with fingers poking them.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clarifying. :)

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