STENSEN, Niels (1638-1686). De elementorum myologiae specimen, seu musculi descriptio geometrica. Cui accedunt canis carchariae dissectum caput, et dissectus piscis ex canum genere. Florence: "sub signo Stellae" Press, 1667.
4o (277 x 212 mm). Woodcut Medici arms on title, 3 folding woodcut plates, 4 engraved plates printed on fold-out sheets, a few woodcut diagrams in text, woodcut initials and tailpieces, type-ornament headpieces. (Marginal staining, occasional light foxing, G4 torn and repaired with old tape, woodcut plates with short marginal tears at guards, two with minor tears at folds.) Contemporary maroon morocco, covers panelled with double gilt fillet, spine densely gilt in six compartments, the second gilt lettered, gilt edges (minor rubbing to spine and extremities, corners bruised).
Provenance: a few early manuscript corrections to text; Gustav O. Galletti, Florence (19th-century inkstamp on title); Horace de Landau (bookplate); Robert Honeyman IV (Sotheby's London, Part VII, 19 May 1981, lot 2899).
FIRST EDITION, LARGE-PAPER COPY of Stensen's definitive treatise on the structure of muscles and his first presentation of his revolutionary theory of the formation of fossils. Written during his two-year stay at the court of Grand Duke Ferdinand in Florence and published shortly before his conversion to Catholicism, the first part of the work builds upon the discoveries that Stensen had spelled out in his De musculis et glandulis. At the time, the swelling and hardening of muscles during their contraction was still thought to be due to the influx of fluid from the nerves. Stensen showed here that the true cause is the tension of the individual muscle fibers. He "provided clear concepts and a clear-cut terminology of parts of the muscle. Then he characterized the individual muscle fiber and the muscle itself as a paralleliped bordered by six parallelograms" (DSB). This geometrical analysis of muscle structure, which lay the groundwork for the science of muscular mechanics, permitted Stensen to show that muscles do not increase in volume during contraction.
In the second part Stensen presented for the first time his theory of the formation of fossils. Study of the teeth in a shark's head that he had dissected in 1666 had "placed immediately before him the question of the relation of these teeth to the so-called glossopetra or tongue-stones, which were common on Malta and were considered lapides sui generis. Stensen concluded that they were fossil shark's teeth" (DSB). This discovery led him to develop theories of the formation of fossils and geological structures, enunciated here for the first time, in "THE FIRST OUTLINE OF A SCIENTIFIC THEORY OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE EARTH" (Norman).
Garrison-Morton 577; Heirs of Hippocrates 609; NLM/Krivatsy 11432; Osler 4021; Waller 9223; Norman 2012.