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Pigs, Monkeys, and Flayed Satyrs: Two Title Pages from Valverde

Juan Valverde de Amusco (c.1525 - 1588) was a Spanish anatomist who is best remembered for his Historia de la Composicion del Cuerpo Humano, which was first published in 1556 in Rome.  It is one of the most notable plagiarisms of Andreas Vesalius' monumental atlas De humani corporis fabrica.  The majority of the copperplate illustrations in Valverde's work were copies of the Vesalian woodcuts that had been reduced in size and stripped of their ornamental backgrounds.  Vesalius was less than enthused by this, and claimed that the text appeared to be written by someone who had little practical experience with dissection.  Nevertheless, Valverde’s text proved to be quite popular and was published in multiple editions, probably because in addition to being smaller and less expensive than the Fabrica, it was published in Italian and Spanish rather than a complex form of Latin. 

We have a few different editions of Valverde's work here at the library. One of the nice things about this is that we can see how they differ from one another.  Take a look at the title page for a 1560 edition of Juan Valverde de Amusco’s Anatomia del corpo humano printed in Rome:

This contains all of the conventional images that we would expect to find in a 16th century anatomical publication.  The three images at the bottom all relate to aspects of anatomical instruction – on the left a professor is providing instruction on the bones, the center shows a formal anatomical lesson complete with consultation of an authoritative text, and the rightmost image shows a smaller group dissecting a female corpse, probably referring to one of the private anatomies that were used to supplement large public displays.  The pig and the monkey perched on the top of the cartouche allude to the fact that those animals were frequently used in anatomical instruction.

This next title page is from a Ventian edition printed in 1586:

It shares many features with the 1560 version, including a depiction of a pig and a monkey, and scenes of dissection.  The skin of a satyr that stretches over the top of the central cartouche is the most striking difference.  This refers to the Greek legend of Apollo and Marsyas.  Marsyas was a satyr who engaged in a music contest with Apollo, with the condition that the winner could inflict whatever punishment they desired upon the loser.  When Marsyas lost, Apollo skinned him alive.  The two large skeletons from the 1560 version have also been replaced by a pair of rather spectral looking caryatids.

Which do you prefer?

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