ASELLI, Gaspare (1581-1625). De lactibus sive lacteis venis quarto vasorum mesaraicorum genere novo invento... dissertatio. Milan: Giovanni Battista Bidelli, 1627.
4o (223 x 169 mm). Collation: +4 2+4 A-K4 3+4. 52 leaves. Engraved title, engraved author portrait, both by Cesare Bassano (both conjugate with text leaves), FOUR LARGE FOLDING CHIAROSCURO WOODCUT PLATES, printed in black, dark red and light red, woodcut initials and head-piece. Quire 3+, containing the 4-leaf index, is bound between the first two quires (+ and 2+) in this copy; although the order of binding varies between copies, the index was probably intended to be bound at the end, as in the Yale copy, in original boards. (Folding plates with a few short tears at guards, plate 1 with longer tear-repaired, occasional light dampstain to lower corners.) 18th-century vellum over pasteboard, red morocco lettering piece on spine; modern citron morocco folding case.
Provenance: DOMENICO COTUGNO (1736-1822), anatomist, physiologist, and book collector (signature on lower flyleaf, letterpress book label on front pastedown).
FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST BOOK WITH ANATOMICAL ILLUSTRATIONS PRINTED IN COLOR. In 1662, during a vivisection performed upon a dog that had just fed, Aselli rediscovered the chylous or lacteal vessels, which Galen and Eristratus reported to have been documented by Hippocrates and Aristotle, but which had been overlooked by the anatomists of the sixteenth century. Aselli undertook a systematic study of the vessels in different species of animals, and established the cause and effect relationship of their turgidity with the intake of nourishment. Although he thus recognized their nature and function, he failed to trace them to the thoracic duct, instead mistakenly construing a connection with the liver, still considered the center of the venous system in the decade before publication of Harvey's De motu cordis. Aselli's error was rectified in the 1650s, when three scientists working independently, Jean Pecquet, Thomas Bartholin and Olof Rudbeck, nearly simultaneously discovered the thoracic duct (see lots 710 and 760). Harvey himself apparently did not know of Aselli's work.
Aselli's report of his findings -- the only one of his studies to appear in print -- was published after his death by his friends Senator Settala and Alessandro Tadino. In its use of color printing to more accurately distinguish the different types of vessels depicted, De lactibus was the "first publication to use colored illustrations in the interest of scientific accuracy" (Grolier Medicine). The striking woodcuts, which appear in this edition only, have been attributed to either Cesare Bassano or to his associate Domenico Falcini. Subsequent editions were illustrated with black and white reduced engraved copies of the original woodcuts.
FINE ASSOCIATION COPY. Domenico Cotugno, a brilliant Neopolitan physician of humble parentage whose interests ranged from metaphysics and mathematics to the natural sciences, was renowned for his skill and selfless devotion to medicine. His many accomplishments included important discoveries in neurology and aural anatomy, and serious attempts to investigate and control smallpox and tuberculosis (see lots 382-385). An "outstanding example of the physician-humanist" (DSB), well-versed in art and architecture and a skilled linguist, Cotugno was a lover of books and amassed a large library.
Choulant-Frank, pp. 240-241; Garrison-Morton 1094; Grolier Medicine 26; Heirs of Hippocrates 453; NLM/Krivatsy 446; Osler 1846; Waller 502; Wellcome 6837; Norman 76.