The Anatomists’ Library: The Books that Unlocked the Secrets of the Human Body
by Colin Salter
I had to take an Art History class (along with a music class) to fulfil undergraduate requirements. The art class required that we write a short paper about an artist. Because I was interested in anatomic artwork, I chose Andreas Vesalius, who really wasn’t an artist, but an anatomy professor at the University of Padua.
Vesalius’ monumental 1543 De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem (“On the Fabric of the Human Body in Seven Books”) was a groundbreaking work of human anatomy. I don’t recall my art history teacher rejecting my request and subsequent paper on Vesalius and I likely received a high mark (given that I received an “A” for the course).
I love anatomical artwork. I own the complete set of books published by Ciba-Geigy of the works of Dr. Frank Netter (known as the “Green Books”). Dr. Netter’s illustrations, to me, represent the pinnacle of medical illustrations.
And now I come to this book, The Anatomists’ Library—The Books that Unlocked the Secrets of the Human Body but conspicuous by its absence is any exploration of medical art of the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries. To leave out any mention of Netter’s work is criminal as he created over 4,000 illustrations, many of them included in the Ciba-Geigy tomes that I mentioned above.
This isn’t to say that this isn’t an excellent book. In fact, the author does a masterful job of explaining the history behind the illustrations that are included in the book.
I would recommend this book for anyone interested in anatomical art prior to the Twentieth Century.
[Thank you to NetGalley and the author for the advanced ebook copy in exchange for my honest and objective opinion which I have given here.]