De Anatomia Capitis Cerebri Nervorum by G.F. d’Acquapendente on the nervous system: A morphological study

Giorgio ZANCHIN and Raffaele DE CARO
University of Padua, Italy

Saint Mark’s Library of Venice houses a collection of more than 200 coloured anatomical paintings, subdivided in 8 volumes and entitled Ab Aquapendente Hieronymus Fabricius Volumina VIII Icones ad Anatomiam, seu Zootomiam pertinentes continentia, curante eodem Auctore. Girolamo Fabrici d’Acquapendente (1533-1619) wanted this as a sort of “reference book” of anatomical coloured preparation, naturally depicted, to be placed alongside the anatomically dissected part or to be used temporarily when this was not available. In the third volume, De Anatomia Capitis Cerebri Nervorum, contains the only known illustrations by Fabrici regarding neuroanatomy. It consists of 21 tables (“Marciana, Rari 112, 1-21”), illustrating the meninges, the brain, the spinal cord, the cranial nerves, the spinal plexuses, and the nerves of the limbs with their blood vessels and muscles.

We propose, on this occasion, an analysis of the anatomical aspects of the four tables of the neurologic collection (112-1; 112-2; 112-5; 112-10). This work was realized by Fabrici as a document of high scientific value and of notable practical use: however, it should be noted that, until now, compared to aesthetic evaluations, paradoxically, neither descriptions of the morphological aspects nor analysis of the research contents of the tabulae pictae have ever been carried out. The merit goes to Fabrici, at the end of the sixteenth century, in a period in which the monochrome xylographies of Vesalius remained an example of unsurpassed beauty and naturalism, for having first established with his collection the importance of the use of colour in anatomical images. We believe that this important precedent stimulated the transition, over a few years, from paintings to the first attempts to print coloured reproductions.

Session IV
Tuesday, 5 July 2005, 4.30 - 5.00 pm

Tenth Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN) and
Tenth Meeting of the European Club for the History of Neurology (ECHN)

St. Andrews, Scotland, 2005