VICQ D'AZYR, Félix (1748-1794). Traité d'anatomie et de physiologie, avec des planches coloriées représentant au naturel les divers organes de l'homme et des animaux... Tome premier [all published]. Paris: François Ambroise Didot the elder, 1786.
Large 2o (477 x 312 mm). Half-title, allegorical aquatint frontispiece, printed in color and finished by hand, engraved explanation leaf by Beaublé, typographic dedication leaf to Louis XVI, "Discours sur l'anatomie en générale" (pp. -54), "Vocabulaire anatomique, augmenté d'un grand nombre de termes nouveaux" (pp. -123), "Explication des planches" (pp. -111, with 5 divisional titles of which numbers 1,2 and 5 not included in the pagination). 69 plates, numbered 1-35, consisting of 34 number-keyed line engravings and 34 aquatints, some with stipple engraving, printed in two or more colors, and representing the same figures as the line engravings but printed from different plates, plus a single line-engraved plate (18) copied from Soemmering, De basi encephali (Göttingen 1778), the frontispiece and plates by and after Alexandre Briceau. (Some marginal staining, leaf 32/1 torn and repaired.) Modern quarter calf and boards.
FIRST EDITION of "the most accurate neuroanatomical work produced before the advent of microscopic staining techniques" (Garrison-Morton). Vicq d'Azyr, permanent secretary to the Société Royale de Médecine and personal physician to Marie-Antoinette, was a skilled comparative anatomist, eminent veterinarian, and prolific writer of medical articles and treatises, those on comparative anatomy and public health being of the most lasting importance. The interest of the present work, projected as a multi-volume study of human anatomy and physiology but never finished, lies in its intelligent utilization of the new print-making technique of aquatint for the purpose of accurate anatomical illustration. The striking illustrations "created a sensation at the time," according to Brunet. Vicq d'Azyr's principal original contributions to the understanding of human anatomy lay in his studies of the brain, the subject of this first volume. He developed a technique of brain dissection using the hardening effect of alcohol, which avoided damage to the delicate surfaces (fixatives such as formalin having not yet been developed). "Like Steno before him, Vicq d'Azyr attached great importance to the structure of the fibers in the white matter of the brain... He also described the mammillothalamic bundle and Reil's ribbon. Rejecting the views of Malpighi and Vieussens, who attributed no functional importance to the cerebral cortex, Vicq d'Azyr attempted to systematize its complex morphology. In particular he isolated the convolution of the corpus callosum, the cuneus, and the sulcus separating the frontal lobe from the parietal, later described by Rolando (1829)" (DSB). One of his principal concerns was the absence of a standard nomenclature for the cerebral convolutions, a problem that he attempted to remedy in the present work, which contains the entire corpus of his work on the brain.
Vicq d'Azyr had commenced publication of the work in parts, undoubtedly at his own expense. The Revolution prevented its completion, and, since the instructions for binding the work were probably never issued, copies differ in the order in which they are bound. COMPLETE COPIES ARE RARE. Brunet V:1176; Garrison-Morton 401.2; Heirs of Hippocrates 1073; Norman 2150; Waller 9953.