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Image 111 of On the Fabric of the Human Body by Andreas Vesalius (Library of Congress)

The Most Influential Medical Book of the 16th Century (Video)


In the 16th century, a groundbreaking medical book emerged, now revered as one of the most influential of its time. Andreas Vesalius's De humani corporis fabrica (‘On the Fabric of the Human Body’) captured the imagination of scholars and enthusiasts alike. Today, preserved carefully at the New York Academy of Medicine, this masterpiece remains an object of intrigue. Printed during the hand-press era, each copy of the book possesses its unique marks of age, making it a rare and precious artifact. Vesalius's approach to the human body was revolutionary; he emphasized the necessity of direct interaction with cadavers to truly understand its intricacies. By personally conducting dissections, he achieved an unparalleled level of accuracy in his illustrations.

One notable aspect of the book is Vesalius's portrayal of bodies at various stages of flaying or dissection, showcasing the stringent regulations on obtaining bodies for anatomical study in Italy. Executed criminals provided the primary source of subjects. Although created centuries ago, the impact of Vesalius's work endures. Scholars and enthusiasts can make appointments to experience this historical treasure up close, feeling the connection to the 16th-century genius who forever changed the course of medical knowledge.

Top image: Image 111 of On the Fabric of the Human Body by Andreas Vesalius (Library of Congress)

By Robbie Mitchell

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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