“THE MOST ELABORATE AND BEAUTIFUL OF ALL 17TH-CENTURY ENGLISH TREATISES ON ANATOMY”: WITH 105 MAGNIFICENT LARGE FOLIO ANATOMICAL PLATES BY LAIRESSE
COWPER, William. The Anatomy of Humane Bodies, with Figures Drawn after the Life by the Best Masters in Europe… Illustrated with Large Explications, Containing Many New Anatomical Discoveries, and Chirurgical Observations. Leyden: Joh. Arn. Langerak, 1737. Atlas folio, (15 by 21 inches), contemporary full brown calf rebacked and recornered, red morocco spine label, raised bands. $14,500.
Second edition of Cowper’s splendid large folio anatomical atlas, one of the greatest of all artistic anatomies. Superbly illustrated with engraved title page and 114 magnificent folio engraved plates (two folding and one double-page), including 105 plates originally drawn by Rembrandt’s rival, Gerard de Lairesse for Bidloo’s Anatomia (1685).
Of the 114 extraordinary anatomical plates in Cowper's atlas, 105 were originally drawn for Govard Bidloo's Anatomia Humani Corporis (1685) by Gerard de Lairesse, who rivaled Rembrandt in his time. Lairesse's plates are "elegantly done and artistically perfect" (Choulant & Frank 250). Considered an "artistic meditation on anatomy," his realistic drawings represent a total departure from the idealistic tradition inaugurated by Vesalius. Bidloo's text, however, was widely criticized, and because of this English surgeon William Cowper, who had obtained 300 impressions of the plates, arranged to supply an entirely new text in English to accompany a reissue of the original engravings. Cowper's text first appeared in 1698, with an appendix on the external muscles, accompanied by nine additional plates engraved by Michael Van der Gucht. The new English text was superior to Bidloo's and quite successful: three editions were printed in the 18th century, with impressions struck from the old plates, one in English (this present copy) and two in Latin. Cowper's edition of the atlas is considered the "most elaborate and beautiful of all 17th-century English treatises on anatomy" (Garrison & Morton 385.1).
"Lairesse displayed his figures in an emotional, almost tender manner, contrasting the raw dissected parts with the full, soft surfaces of uncut flesh, placing flayed, bound figures in ordinary nightclothes or bedding, setting ordinary household objects such as books, jars or cabinets in the same scene as cut-up torsos or limbs, and in one plate showing a fly crawling on an opened abdomen. His illustrations brought the qualities of Dutch still-life painting into anatomical illustration, and gave a new, darker spiritual expression to the act of dissection. According to the most recent scholarship, the plates were probably engraved by Abraham Bloteling, inventor of the rocker tool for mezzotint engraving" (Norman 231). Russell 212. Waller 2192. Cole 1113. Wellcome II, 401. Neu 1039. Choulant & Frank, 252-53. Dumaitre, Gerard de Lairesse (1982). See Norman 529. Early owner signature.
Light spotting to text, a few professional repairs and light cleaning to plates. boards with expert restoration. A handsome copy of this scarce and monumental work.