Hand-colored woodcut
Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564)
De humani corporis fabrica libri septem
Basel: Johannes Oporinus, 1543
Courtesy of an Anonymous Private Collector; photo courtesy of Christie's, New York
Dedication copy presented by Vesalius to Charles V (1500-1558), Holy Roman Emperor

 
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This dedication copy was sumptuously bound in purple velvet, with gilt and gauffered edges and four pairs of blue silk ties. Presented by the author to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, in the autumn of 1543, this is the only known copy with contemporary hand-colored and illuminated illustrations throughout the text. Vesalius was appointed physician to the Emperor's household immediately following the presentation of this volume.

As the title-page illustration — a portrait of the author pointing to a female cadaver on a table in front of him — makes clear, Vesalius insisted that physicians do their own dissecting and not leave the work to assistants. The more than two hundred woodcut illustrations were drawn in Venice by an artist or artists from the studio of Titian, and the woodblocks were cut by some of the finest Venetian woodblock cutters. Vesalius took great care with the depiction of anatomical subjects and supervised the artists' work closely. When completed, the woodblocks were sent to the printer, Oporinus, in Basel, with the author's precise instructions as to where they were to be placed in the text.

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