Click to enlarge Click to enlarge
Remmelin, Johann (b.1583).

Catoptron microcosmicum.

Absolvtam admirandae partivm hominis .I:R: Inventor. Stephan Michelspacher. Execudit. [Ulm?], 1613.

"Most authors who have discovered a novel concept and followed it through the press take pride in seeing their name printed on the work's title page. But not Johann Remmelin, a physician who was born at Ulm in 1583. Sometime in the first decade of the seventeenth century, he hit on the idea of reproducing human anatomy on three large copper plates. These illustrations would be so arranged that internal parts lying successively under each other could be shown by means of cutouts that would be superimposed as successive flaps under engravings of the body's surface. These flaps could then be progressively opened like windows.

In 1613, a set of three large copper plates designed along these lines appeared in Germany, but their "Inventor" was identified only as "I.R." Some nine years later, Remmelin explained to his readers in another edition of the work that though he had designed the plates for his private use in 1605, they had been published by Stephan Michelspacher without his knowledge. Though Remmelin's was not the first attempt to illustrate human anatomy in this manner, Vesalius having suggested a similar method in his Epitome, the plates enjoyed great popularity during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, appearing in six Latin, four German, three Latin-Dutch, one French-English, and six English versions. A striking example of their staying power was an edition published in 1754 by an enterprising Veronese printer who resurrected the plates, which were then over 140 years old, and used them to illustrate an anatomical text attributed to Arcangelo Piccolomini, who had died in 1586.

Kenneth Fitzpatrick Russell, the eminent Australian anatomist and medical historian, was working on a study of Remmelin and his anatomical illustrations at his death in 1987. As a tribute to Russels's memory, his wife, Jean Forgo Russell (formerly a senior associate at the University of Melbourne) and their children determined to finish his manuscript and publish it posthumously" (Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 66, 1992).

Rare Text Images Home   Human Body Home
Return to Digital Clendening
© 2000 University of Kansas Medical Center
Revised: May 11, 2000