New Acquisition: The Fabric of the Human Body, a new translation of Vesalius’ masterwork

2014 marks the 500th anniversary of the birth of physician and anatomist Andreas Vesalius.  Vesalius was a lecturer in anatomy and surgery at the University of Padua. He was an advocate for the study of human anatomy through dissection of human bodies, rather than animals. His great work, De Humani Corporis Fabrica, published in 1543 when he was 28 years old, was not only scientifically revolutionary, but a landmark in printing and art as well.

The Health Sciences Library’s Rare Materials Collection has both the first edition of 1543 and the second edition of 1555. The Fabric of the Human Body, a new annotated translation and facsimile of both editions was recently added to the collection. The two-volume set was purchased with funds from the Charley Smyth Library Endowment, established with the Library by the Anschutz Medical Campus Retired Faculty Association, in memory of colleague and friend Dr. Charley Smyth, former Head of the School of Medicine Division of Rheumatology.

Northwestern University Professors Emeritus Daniel H. Garrison and Malcolm H. Hast spent more than twenty years translating the texts of both the 1543 and the 1555 editions from Latin into English. It is the first translation to include both editions. Modern anatomical terms have been added parenthetically to clarify the sixteenth-century text. Extensive footnotes provide further explanation for modern readers, with highlighting to denote differences between editions. The annotations also incorporate newly discovered notes in Vesalius’ handwriting for a planned but unpublished third edition.

A new font based on the beautiful typeface used in the original publication, Basel Antiqua, was designed specifically for this translation. The illustrations and decorated initials were reproduced using high resolution digital scans, with thumbnails inserted in the margins of the text to help orient the reader.

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The Health Sciences Library will celebrate the birth of Andreas Vesalius on Wednesday, November 19th from 12 to 2 p.m.  in the Library’s Reading Room.  Dr. Gabriel Finkelstein, Associate Professor of history at the University of Colorado Denver will give a lecture, “Vesalius at 500.” The 1543 and 1555 editions of De Humani Corporis Fabrica and The Fabric of the Human Body will be on display, and light refreshments will be served.

[Emily Epstein, Cataloging Librarian]

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