Notes from the Rare Book Room Category


Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room

Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room,  June 2013

STEVEN BLANKAART (1650-1702). Anatomia reformata, sive Concinna corporis humani dissection… Leiden, 1695.

Blankaart, Dutch pharmacist, physician, and anatomist, initially practiced pharmacy and later medicine in Amsterdam. He studied medicine and philosophy at Franeker where he graduated in 1674. He was a prolific writer and was the first to edit and publish a medical journal in Holland. Blankaart is also known for his use of the injection technique to study the details of blood vessel distribution. This technique was first suggested by Leonardo da Vinci and later used by such prominent anatomists as Graaf, Swammerdam, and Ruysch. Blankaart first published this popular anatomical text at Leiden in 1687. In this comprehensive work, he cited nearly seventy authors whose works he had consulted. The finely engraved plates in this profusely illustrated work attest to Blankaart’s keen observational powers.  A plate depicts some of the apparatus used in the embalming process.



Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room, May 2013

ADDISON (1793-1860). On the constitutional and local effects of disease of the supra-renal capsules. London: S. Highley, 1855.

Possessed of rather rude demeanor, Addison nevertheless had a large practice. He was a brilliant lecturer and diagnostician and one of the most respected physicians at Guy’s Hospital, devoting himself almost wholly to his students and patients.

The present work is one of the truly remarkable medical books of the nineteenth century and has long been among the principal desiderata for medical book collectors. Addison describes here for the first time two chronic diseases of the adrenal gland: Addison’s disease and pernicious anemia (Addison’s anemia), the most important primary disease of the blood.

The work is supplemented by several fine hand-colored lithographs. Addison’s discoveries were never widely recognized by his contemporaries, yet today they are regarded as fundamentally significant in the study of the endocrine glands and the treatment of pleuriglandular diseases.


Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room, April 2013

History of Medicine Society Presentations and Events 2013/2014

Thursday, September 26, 2013,  5:30-6:30.    Dayle DeLancey, Asst. Professor, Dept of Medical History & Bioethics, Univ. of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.  “African American Print Culture and the History of Medicine”.

Thursday, October 24, 2013, 5:30-6:30.   Russell Currier, Past President, American Veterinary Medical History Society, “2,000 Year History of Scabies: From Humoral Beliefs to Contagion to Modern Understanding”.

Thursday, November 21, 2013, 5:30-6:30.    K. Lindsay Eaves, MA, PhD candidate. Research Asst., UI Biological Anthropology Lab and  Report Manager for Wapsi Valley Archaeology, Inc., Anamosa, IA,  “An Uncorseted Life: The Medical Basis of Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker’s Suffrage and Dress Reform Activism”.

Thursday, January 23, 2014, 5:30-6:30.    Asitha Jayawardena, Medical student, Univ. of Iowa.  Winner of Sparks Essay Contest. “Expedited ‘Diffusion of Innovation’: A reflection on the Ponseti Method in the current era of medicine”.

Thursday, February 27, 2014, 5:30-6:30.    H. Stanley Thompson, Emeritus Prof. Dept. of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Univ. of Iowa, “Abraham Flexner’s Contributions to the University of Iowa’s College of Medicine”.

Thursday, March 27, 2014,  4:30-7:00     John Martin Rare Book Room, 4th floor, Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, University of Iowa   “Open House in the John Martin Rare Book Room”

Friday, April 25, 2014, 6:00-9:00 History of Medicine Society Banquet.   W. Bruce Fye, Professor of Medicine and Medical History, Mayo Clinic, “Franklin Roosevelt’s Secret ‘Serious Heart Ailment’ and the 1944 Presidential Campaign.” Location to be determined.



Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room, 2013

Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room    March 2013

GASPARE ASELLI (1581-1626). De lactibus sive lacteis venis. Milan: Apud Jo. Bapt[ist]am Bidellium, 1627.

Aselli was born at Cremona, studied medicine at Pavia receiving degrees in medicine, surgery, and philosophy. He spent his professional career as a surgeon in Milan performing many anatomical and physiological experiments including those that led to his rediscovery of the lymphatic vessels. The lymphatics had been described earlier but no one had been successful in identifying their functional significance. Aselli wrote many unpublished notebooks and papers to record his work on medical subjects including surgery, therapeutics, recurring calculi, anal fistulas, and poisonous drugs. The latter was important because it was the first time drugs had been classified by their clinical effects and toxic actions. While vivisecting a dog to demonstrate the recurrent nerves and diaphragm, he discovered a network of mesenteric vessels that contained a milky white fluid. He had uncovered the mesenteric lymphatic vessels which he called the lacteals. After repeated experimentation, he concluded that they lead into the liver which was believed to be the central organ of the venous system. It remained for Pecquet to correct Aselli’s misconception when he discovered the thoracic duct in 1651. The woodcuts are treated in a very spirited manner and in colored chiaroscuro. The wood blocks are the earliest anatomical illustrations in color printing.



Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room, February 2013

SAINT HILDEGARD (1098-1179). Physica. Strasbourg, 1533.

Hildegard, called Hildegard of Bingen, was eight years old when her family placed her in a nearby Benedictine convent where she subsequently became a nun. She founded and was Abbess of a convent near Bingen, Germany.  Hildegard’s writings are primarily mystical and theological; however, she also wrote several medical works. Her medical knowledge was acquired by reading, observation, and her duties in the convent which included care and treatment of other nuns as well as travelers and villagers. Hildegard shows how clergy of the time practiced medicine. She included time-tested formulations, numerous folk remedies, and her observations of diseases and cures. She lists the therapeutic merits of over 200 plants, 50 trees, and 20 precious stones. She includes the medicinal value of varieties of fish, birds, animals, reptiles, and metals. She was aware that lead and brass were poisonous and that iron and copper were valuable constituents of tonics. The wood-block illustrations have little relationship to her textual material. The blocks depict a seated patient surrounded by physicians and an attendant and a traditional wound-man.



Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room, December 2012

PROSPER ALPINI (1553-1617). De medicina Aegyptiorum. Paris: Apud viduam Gulielmi Pelé, & Joannem Duval, 1646.

Alpini, an Italian physician and botanist, graduated from Padua and traveled through Greece, Crete, and Egypt from 1580 to 1583. Following his travels, he returned to Padua where he remained as professor of botany and director of the botanical garden until his death. This work was one of several books that resulted from his travels and is a comprehensive account of medicine as it was practiced in Egypt.

While in Egypt  Alpini studied its plant life ; his work, De plantis Aegypti  liber, includes over seventy full-page illustrations of Egyptian plants, among them the earliest representations of the coffee and cotton plants. Also included in this work is Alpini’s, De balsam, which sets forth, in the form of a dialogue between an Egyptian and a Hebrew physician, the merits and uses of balsam.

Alpini illustration



Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room, November 2012

JACQUES GAMELIN (1738-1803) AND LAVALÉE, JACQUES.  Nouveau recueil d’ostéologie et de myologie.  1779

Gamelin,published this atlas of the bones and muscles for artists in an edition of 200 copies, engraved from drawings that Gamelin made at his own dissection facility with the assistance of professors of the College of Surgery of Toulouse. The first part of the work is devoted to bones; the second part concerns muscles. Gamelin personally engraved some plates; others are by Martin and Lavalée. The plates are larger, more artistically varied, and more expressive and fantastic in their conceptions than other works of its type. Allegorical scenes of death and battle appear throughout the book. Gamelin, in the preface to the second book, is critical of what he considered the typically unvaried nature of the figures in anatomical illustrations. His figures are distinguished by their bold and dramatic nature poses, such as the écorché crucifixion in the second book or this remarkable praying skeleton from the first.

Gamelin illustration


Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room, October 2012

JOHN LIZARS (1787?-1860). A system of anatomical plates of the human body. Edinburgh: W. H. Lizars, [1840?].

Lizars developed a great reputation as a teacher and was also a bold and forthright surgeon. He made a number of original contributions, was a pioneer in performing ovariotomies in Europe, and he clearly demonstrated the value of abdominal exploration as a diagnostic procedure. However, he was somewhat ahead of his time and received criticism for exploring new surgical techniques, though later many of his techniques became widely accepted. Lizars was an active writer and prepared many papers on hernia, lithotomy, and hemorrhoids. Although it contains no new discoveries, this superb atlas is certainly one of the most elegant works of the nineteenth century. The 101 lithographs were drawn by the author and his brother, William, from the author’s dissections.

Lizar illustration


Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room

CLAUDE NICOLAS LE CAT (1700-1768). Traité des sens. Nouvelle ed. Amsterdam: Chez J. Wetstein, 1744.

Le Cat, a man of many interests, was one of France’s foremost surgeons and researchers. Le Cat was interested in the physiology of the nervous system. He was a contemporary of Haller and incorrectly believed, contrary to Haller, that the dura mater and arachnoid were the seat of sensation.



Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room, August 2012

REINIER DE GRAAF (1641-1673). Tractatus anatomico-medicus de succi pancreatici natura & usu. Leiden: Ex officina Hackiana, 1671.

Graaf, a Dutch anatomist and physiologist, was celebrated for his work on digestion as well as on the anatomy of the genital organs of both sexes. He was an early investigator of the pancreas and collected the pancreatic juice of dogs by means of artificially created pancreatic fistulae.   more…