ESTIENNE, Charles (ca 1505-1564). De dissectione partium corporis humani libri tres. Un cum figuris, & incisionum declarationibus, Stephano Riverio Chirurgo compositis. Paris: Simon de Colines, 1545.
Large 2o (391 x 259 mm). Collation: *-**6; A-Z8 AA6. 202 leaves. Roman type, side-notes and index in italic. Printer's woodcut device (Schreiber's "Tempus I") on title. 62 full-page woodcut illustrations printed from 56 blocks, one signed S.R. (Stephanus Riverius), 7 others signed by Jean Jollat, either with his name or with his Mercury symbol, a few dated 1530, 1531 or 1532, 4 of these plus one other cut signed with the Lorraine cross and cut by the Tory master (Jacquemin Woeiriot?), 101 small woodcut diagrams in the text (including repeats). 9-, 6- and 3-line white-on-black criblè initials, a few 3-line woodcut initials. (Marginal foxing, some spotting in quires L-S, marginal soiling to title, leaves in first 2 quires tearing slightly along upper gutters, a few minor marginal wormholes at front, short marginal tears to 4 or 5 leaves.) Contemporary vellum over pasteboard, the upper layer of the boards from a 14th-century manuscript in a small gothic script, contemporary manuscript title lettering along lower edges, later lettering on upper cover and spine, traces of four pairs of ties (18th-century vellum rebacking, some wear). Provenance: A few marginalia in a contemporary hand; Carolo Moadini (early owner's signature); Haskell F. Norman (bookplate; his sale part I, Christie's New York, 18 March 1998, lot 82).
FIRST EDITION OF THE FINEST ANATOMICAL WORK OF THE FRENCH RENAISSANCE, WITH EXOTIC IMAGES UNIQUE IN THE HISTORY OF ANATOMICAL ART. Charles Estienne, son of Henri Estienne, the founder of the French dynasty of scholar-printers, studied medicine in Paris, completing his training in 1540. In 1535, during his course of anatomical studies under Jacobus Sylvius, Estienne had Andreas Vesalius as a classmate. At the time the only illustrated manuals of dissection available were the writings of Berengario da Carpi, and the need for an improved, well-illustrated manual must have been obvious to all students of anatomy, particularly the medical student son of one of the world's leading publishers. Estienne did not hesitate to fill this need. The manuscript and illustrations for De Dissectione were completed by 1539, and the book was set in type halfway through Book 3 and the last section, when publication was stopped by a lawsuit brought by Etienne de la Rivière, an obscure surgeon and anatomist who had attended lectures at the Paris faculty during 1533-1536, overlapping the time of Estienne's medical study in Paris. The printing work was done at the Estienne Press by Charles Estienne's stepfather Simon de Colines, who ran the press from Henri Estienne's death until Charles's brother Robert came of age. According to the account of Quesnay, Estienne may have attempted to plagiarize a manuscript of Rivière which the latter had turned over to him for translation from French into Latin. In the eventual settlement of the lawsuit, Estienne was required to credit Rivière for the various anatomical preparations, and for the pictures of the dissections.
The anatomical woodcuts in De Dissectione have attracted much critical attention due to their wide variation in imagistic quality, the oddly disturbing postures of the figures in Books 2 and 3, the obvious insertion in many blocks (again, in Books 2 and 3) of separately cut pieces for the dissected portions of the anatomy, and the uncertainty surrounding the sources of the images. The presence of inserts in main blocks would suggest that these blocks were originally intended for another purpose, and in fact a link has been established between the gynecological figures in Book 3, with their frankly erotic poses, and the series of prints entitled Gli amori degli dei, engraved by Gian Giacomo Caraglio after drawings by Perino del Vaga and Rosso Fiorentino. A possible explanation of this interesting connection between pornography and anatomy is that the engraver of the female nude woodcuts did not have access to a model, and for the sake of expediency copied the general outlines of the female nudes from "The Loves of the Gods," eliminating the male figures from the erotic illustrations. Another wood engraver, perhaps Rivière, would then have prepared the anatomical insert blocks showing the internal organs. Still another explanation might have been that in an era in which there was little graphic erotica available the author and the publishers deliberately exploited the erotic undercurrents of this anatomical work as a way of expanding the market beyond medical students. Perhaps because of the erotic undertones the book sold unusually well for a dissection manual and anatomical textbook, causing the publishers to issue an edition in French only one year later, in 1546.
Had De Dissectione been published in 1539, it would have stolen much of the thunder from Vesalius's Fabrica (1543): it would have been the first work to show detailed illustrations of dissection in serial progression, the first to discuss and illustrate the total human body, the first to publish instructions on how to mount a skeleton, and the first to set the anatomical figures in a fully developed panoramic landscape, a tradition begun by Berengario da Carpi. Nonetheless, Estienne's work still contained numerous original contributions to anatomy, including the first published illustrations of the whole external venous and nervous systems, and descriptions of the morphology and purpose of the "feeding holes" of bones, the tripartate composition of the sternum, the valvulae in the hepatic veins and the scrotal septum. In addition, the work's eight dissections of the brain give more anatomical detail that had previously appeared. Adams S-1725; Carlino, Paper Bodies: A Catalogue of Anatomical Fugitive Sheets 1538-1687 (1999) 23-26; Choulant-Frank, pp. 152-155; Garrison-Morton 378; Heirs of Hippocrates 256; Kellett, "Perino del Vaga et les illustrations pour l'anatomie d'Estienne," Aesculape 37 (1955), pp. 74-89; McHenry, p. 40; Norman 728; Philadelphia Museum of Art, 5c; Renouard Colines pp. 409-410; Sappol, Dream Anatomy, pp. 2, 75, 94-97; Schreiber Colines 222 and pp. x xxiv-xxxvi; Stillwell Science 626; Wellcome 6076. AN UNUSUALLY TALL COPY, WITH ALL PINHOLES PRESERVED.