BIDLOO, Govard (1649-1713). Anatomia humani corporis, centum & quinque tabulis, per artificiosiss. G. de Lairesse ad vivum delineatis. Amsterdam: for the widow of Joannes van Someren, the heirs of Joannes van Dyk, Henry Boom and widow of Theodore Boom, 1685.
Large 2o (628 x 359 mm). Additional engraved title, engraved portrait by Abraham Bloteling after Gerard de Lairesse, 105 numbered engraved plates after Lairesse, probably by Bloteling and Peter and Philip van Gunst (plate 23 folding), number 10 printed on two sheets, printer's woodcut device on title, woodcut initials and tail-pieces. Contemporary red morocco gilt with gilt coat-of-arms of Samuel Bernard [Olivier 1042 fer 1] on the sides, gilt edges (rebacked, old spine laid down, corners repaired); leather backed folding case. Provenance: Samuel Bernard (ca 1651-1739) painter and engraver (coat-of-arms on binding); Fenwick Beckman (bookplate); Ira M. Rutkow (pencil signature on rear flyleaf).
FIRST EDITION, LARGE-PAPER COPY. Considered as an artistic meditation on anatomy, Gerard de Lairesse's designs are a total departure from the idealistic tradition inaugurated by the Vesalian woodcuts. They are also worlds apart from the productions of the Fialetti-Casserio collaboration. Lairesse displayed his figures with everyday realism and sensuality, contrasting the raw dissected parts of the body with the full, soft surfaces of undissected flesh surrounding them; placing flayed, bound figures in ordinary nightclothes or bedding; setting objects such as a book, a jar, a crawling fly in the same space as a dissected limb or torso. He thus brought the qualities of Dutch still-life painting into anatomical illustration, and gave a new, darker expression to the significance of dissection. De Lairesse's images of dissected pregnancies and premature infants also reflect compassion--a quality unusual in art that was intended primarily to be scientific.
A painter and writer on art theory, Lairesse was influenced by Rembrandt, who painted his portrait in 1665, and also by the French styles of Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain. The French called him the "Dutch Poussin." Lairesse suffered from congenital syphlilis, which gave him a deformed nose visible in Rembrandt's portrait. Perhaps because he had always lived with disease Lairesse had more than a casual interest in medicine. Syphilis made him blind in 1690, and for the rest of his active life Lairesse supported himself by lecturing and writing about art, publishing two books on drawing and painting which were widely reprinted and translated throughout the eighteenth century. Some of Lairesse's drawings were probably engraved by Abraham Bloteling. A line engraver and creator of mezzotint plates who worked in both Holland and England, Bloteling was particularly famous for the quality of his mezzotints, for which he initiated a more thorough system of preparing the grounds, and may have invented the rocker. According to Choulant-Frank, Haller and Moehsen believed that some plates in the series were engraved by the brothers Pieter and Philip van Gunst. Despite imperfections from the point of view of dissection, which Choulant-Frank and others have pointed out, the Bidloo--de Lairesse anatomical studies reflect much that is good, including early depictions of skin and hair from observation with a microscope.
Bidloo began this project with de Lairesse around 1676 during a period in which he was also writing plays in Amsterdam, obtaining his medical degree, and working as a surgeon. It would appear that Bidloo brought his flair for drama to the conception and realization of this project. The 105 large drawings were probably completed about 1682, after which the plates had to be engraved-a huge production. Choulant-Frank states that after the first edition of 1685, and an edition in Dutch published in 1690, the publishers of Bidloo's atlas gave 300 sets of Lairesse's plates to the English surgeon Willam Cowper. Because the plates had been very expensive to engrave and print it is more likely that Cowper purchased the plates. In 1698 Cowper reissued the plates under his own name with an English text superior to Bidloo's. Even though plagiarism--especially over national boundaries--was commonly tolerated at the time, Bidloo objected strongly. The ensuing controversy between Bidloo and Cowper over Cowper's plagiarism is one of the most famous in medical history. Beekman, "Bidloo and Cowper, Anatomists," Ann. Med. Hist. VII (1935)pp. 113-29 mentions this copy; Choulant-Frank p. 250; Dumaitre, La Curieuse Destinie des Planches Anatomiques de Girard de Lairesse (1982); Garrison-Morton 386; Hofer, Baroque Book Illustration, 146; Norman 231; Roberts & Tomlinson pp. 309-17; Russell, British Anatomy, 211; Wax, The Mezzotint: History and Technique (1990) 25-26; Wellcome II, p. 165.