CHESELDEN, William. Osteographia, or the Anatomy of the Bones. London: [William Bowyer for the author?], 1733.
2o (505 x 350 mm). Engraved frontispiece, engraved title with royal arms on verso, engraved dedication with engraved deer skeleton on verso, 25 leaves with 29 engravings (vignettes and head-pieces) in text and 111 (of 112), engraved plates comprising 2 sets of 56 numbered engraved plates (lacks plate 56 of first set) by Jacob Schijnvoet and Gerard van der Gucht. Contemporary speckled calf, gilt corner pieces (rebacked, corners repaired). Provenance: Hans Sloane (engraved bookplate on front pastedown); Haskell F. Norman (bookplate; his sale part II, Christie's New York, 15 June 1998, lot 367).
FIRST EDITION, with title vignette and engraving on verso of the second plate LVI printed in red. 28 unsigned and unpaginated leaves, not including the first and second sets of plates. The first 28 leaves include the engraved frontispiece, engraved title with the royal arms on the verso, the engraved dedication with engraved deer skeleton on the verso, and 25 leaves of text illustrated with 44 plates and vignettes of comparative osteology. The first set of 56 engraved plates, numbered I-LVI, are lettered and have explanatory text on their versos; plate LVI of this first set is lacking in the Edell copy. The second set of engraved plates, also numbered I-LVI, repeats the first series without letters or explanatory text; plate XXXII in this series differs from its counterpart in the first series in that the skeleton is not holding a humerus in its left hand. According to Russell, "nearly all" the vignettes and four of the large plates were drawn by Jacob Schijnvoet, and the remaining plates were the work of Gerard van der Gucht (1696-1776).
Like his teacher, William Cowper, William Cheselden was trained or self-taught as an artist, and he achieved the highest expression of his art in the production of Osteographia, the most artistically interesting osteological atlas ever produced. Cheselden had the book printed at his own expense in an edition of 400 copies printed for subscribers, after which the plates were destroyed "that the price of the book may never sink in the possession of the subscribers" ("To the reader," last page). He chose a special thick paper upon which type and engraving stand out brilliantly, while the large folio format allows for natural-size illustrations of the separate human bones. Decorative elements in the way of head- and tail-pieces illustrating comparative osteology, and historiated initials with putti and osteological motifs, in the tradition of the Vesalian woodcut initials, and the second edition of Cowper's Myotomia Reformata, enhance the book as an art object. The comparative figures, by the little-known Dutch artist Schijnvoet, show the skeletons of some species accurately for the first time, and their charmingly fanciful poses provide a counterpoint to the graver figures of the main text.
To maximize the accuracy of the large plates of adult, fetal and pathological bones Cheselden used the camera obscura, which he was the first to employ for the purpose of book illustration. He also personally supervised the both the drawing and engraving processes. In his remarks To the Reader Cheselden described his personal role in the design and production of the plates: "The actions of all the skeletons... were my own choice; and where particular parts need to be more distinctly expressed on account of the anatomy, there I always directed; sometimes in the drawings with the pencil, and often with the needle upon the copper plate... The expressing the smoothness of the ends of the bones by engraving only with single lines, while the other parts were all etched, was also my contriving..." The title vignette shows Cheselden using the camera obscura to trace the image of a skeleton. Choulant-Frank, p. 261; Garrison-Morton 395; Heirs of Hippocrates 814; Norman 466; Roberts & Tomlinson 395; Waller 1941; Wellcome II, p. 335.