16th-Century Flap Anatomies in Becker Medical Library

Anatomical flap books from the 16th and 19th century will be on display for First Fridays @ Becker on Jan. 4, 2019, in the Farrell Teaching and Learning Center (FLTC) hearth space from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Anatomical flap books contain anatomical illustrations with moveable parts. These visual aids simulate the process of anatomical dissection from the outside of the body to the internal organs. Becker Library has at least 30 anatomical flap books and the three oldest examples are from the 16th century. We identified many of oldest anatomical flap books using Leroy Crummer’s A checklist of anatomical books illustrated with cuts with superimposed flaps” (1932). However, the golden age of anatomical flap books was in the 19th century, in part because of the spectacular color printing processes of that century.

Our earliest anatomical flap book is an exquisite example from 1543, “De humani corporis fabrica libri septem” (“On the Fabric of the Human Body”) by Andreas Vesalius. Becker Library has three editions of De Fabrica (1543, 1555, and 1568) and all three editions are anatomical flap books (Crummer, 1932). Visitors can see what a flap anatomy looks like unassembled in our second edition of 1555 (F

igure 1-2), thanks to the generosity H. Richard Tyler, who earned his medical degree at Washington University in 1951. The base figure is a woodcut showing veins and arteries and one organ [Figure 1]. The instructions and the rest of the organs are a second page [Figure 2]. In most cases, the owner or bookbinder cut out the organs and assembled the flap anatomy according to instructions. Crummer (1932) thought that Vesalius probably got the idea for his flap anatomies from fugitive sheets printed earlier in the 16th century. Fugitive sheets are single sheets, similar to broadsides, showing the human body using flaps or overlays.

Our second oldest anatomical flap book is by Leonard Thurnneiser from 1576 and it demonstrates “his method of diagnosing disease by analyzing urine specimens (Weimerich, 2003).” Thurnneiser was a self-taught alchemical physician who was a follower of Paracelsus.

Paracelsus believed that all physicians should know how to separate the contents of the urine alchemically and he gave detailed instructions for interpreting the resultant precipitates. The primitive attempts by Paracelsus at chemical examination of the urine represented a remarkable advance in the analysis of urine (Haber, 1988).

Unfortunately, Thurnneiser took Paracelsian methods to absurd places. In “Das ist confirmatio concertationis” (“The confirmation of things that are disputed …concerning urine testing”), he “pictures his cylindric glass human-shaped matula” for urine testing (Haber, 1988). The matula is the urine scale to the left of Adam in Figure 3.  Thurnneiser believed that precipitates and distillates of urine in a man or woman shaped matula actually correlated with the location of disease in a man or woman (Haber, 1988).

Our last 16th-century anatomical flap book is from 1583:  [Ophthalmodouleia (romanized form)], das ist, Augendienst [in the service of the eye]. George Bartisch, an oculist, wrote this first full-length monograph on ophthalmology and drafted the figures used as woodcut illustrations. The two spectacular flap anatomies are on the brain and the eye (Figure 4). The other woodcuts show eye surgery and eye diseases and German fashions of the 16th century.



AIC’s Annual Meeting » 41st Annual Meeting – Book & Paper Session, May 29, “Flip, Flap, and Crack: The Conservation of 400 Years of Anatomical Flap Books by Meg Brown”. (2018, December 4). Retrieved from AIC’s Annual Meeting. June 2013 : http://www.conservators-converse.org/2013/06/41st-annual-meeting-book-paper-session-may-29-flip-flap-and-crack-the-conservation-of-400-years-of-anatomical-flap-books-by-meg-brown/

Bartisch, G. (1583). [Ophthalmodouleia (romanized form)], das ist, Augendienst . Dreszden: Gedruckt ….Durch Matthes Stöckel,. Retrieved December 10, 2018, from https://beckercat.wustl.edu/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?biblionumber=80425

Brown, M. (2013). Flip, Flap, and Crack, The Conservation and Exhibition of 400 Years of Flap Anatomies. The Book and Paper Group Annual 32 (2013) 6, 32(2?), pp. 6-14.

Cislo, A. E. (2010). 5. Paracelsus’s theory of embodiment in the popular press. In Paracelsus’s theory of embodiment : conception and gestation in early modern Europe (pp. 77-96). London: Pickering & Chatto. Retrieved December 10, 2018, from https://beckercat.wustl.edu/cgi-bin/koha/opac-ISBDdetail.pl?biblionumber=126892

Crummer, L. (1932, Apr). A CHECK LIST OF ANATOMICAL BOOKS ILLUSTRATED WITH CUTS WITH SUPERIMPOSED FLAPS. Bull Med Libr Assoc., 20(4), pp. 131–139. Retrieved December 4, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC234358/

Haber, M. H. (1988, September ). Pisse prophecy: a brief history of urinalysis. Clinics in Laboratory Medicine-, 8(3), 424-426.

Ingold, R. (2015, March 9). Announcements, Behind the Scenes, Featured Item, New Collections: The History of Medicine’s Anatomical Fugitive Sheet Digital Collection. Retrieved December 6, 2018, from Duke University Libraries Bitstreams: https://blogs.library.duke.edu/bitstreams/2015/03/09/the-history-of-medicines-anatomical-fugitive-sheet-digital-collection/

Moran, B. (2013). Art and Artisanship in Early Modern Alchemy. . Getty Research Journal, 5, pp. 1-14. Retrieved December 4, 2018, from https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/41825343.pdf

Thurneisser zum Thurn, L. 1.-1. (1576). Confirmatio concertationis : oder ein Bestettigung desz jenigen so streittig, häderig, oder zenckisch ist, wie dann ausz Unverstandt die neuwe und vor unerhörte Erfindung der aller nützlichesten und menschlichem Geschlecht der notturftigesten Kunst desz H. Berlin: Im Grauwen Closter. Retrieved December 6 , 2018, from https://beckercat.wustl.edu/cgi-bin/koha/opac-ISBDdetail.pl?biblionumber=62147

Vesalius, A. 1.-1. (1543). De humani corporis fabrica libri septem … Basileae: Ex officina Joannis Oporini,. Retrieved December 10, 2018, from https://beckercat.wustl.edu/cgi-bin/koha/opac-ISBDdetail.pl?biblionumber=86722

Vesalius, A. (1555). de humani corporis fabrica libri septem. Basileae: Per Ioannem Oporinum. Retrieved December 10, 2018, from https://beckercat.wustl.edu/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?biblionumber=137781

Vesalius, A. (1568). De Humani corporis fabrica libri septem. Venetiis: Apud Franciscum Franciscium Senensem, & Ioannem Criegher Germanum. Retrieved December 10, 2018, from https://beckercat.wustl.edu/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?biblionumber=137809

Weimerskirch, P. (2003). The cover design. The Library Quarterly,, 73(3), pp. 338-342.