Frontispiece to Andreas Vesalius, De humani corporis fabrica libri septem

Reference Type:
Flemish physician Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) published his famous De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (“The Seven Books on the Structure of the Human Body”), commonly known as the Fabrica, in 1543. The inscription on the frontispiece reads “Andreas Vesalius of Brussels, professor of the school of physicians at Padua, Seven books on the fabric of the human body.” The three weasels on the coat of arms represent Wesel, the origin of both Vesalius’ family and his name. Vesalius himself is in the center of the composition, with one hand on the female body he is dissecting and the other pointing up at the suspended skeleton, a reminder of the importance of the knowledge of bones when discussing anatomy. The anatomical theater is filled with curious observers, perhaps because dissections were not common occurrences and female cadavers were rarely available. Some of the onlookers would have been physicians and medical students, but many of the attendees were there out of simple curiosity or for the prestige of having experienced such an event. Closer observation of the audience will lead to interesting discoveries: for example, what is transpiring between the two men in front of the dissection table? And who is the apparently naked and angry man behind the column at the upper left? (Source: https://exhibitions.lib.cam.ac.uk/vesalius/artifacts/1543-frontispiece/) Notes by Mariann Smith
History of Medicine
History of Science
Cambridge University Library, Cambridge