Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Anatomy Gets Animated In Rare Flap Books

By Nancy Mattoon

Joseph Gibbons Richardson.
Medicology, or, Home encyclopedia of health :
a complete family guide... 1904. Vol. I
(All Images Courtesy Of Duke University Libraries.)

A professor of Romance studies and a historian of medicine have pooled their expertise to create a new Duke University exhibit that "weaves together the history of science, medical instruction and the intricate art of bookmaking." Animated Anatomies: The Human Body in Anatomical Texts from the 16th to 21st Centuries examines anatomical flap books, which take their name from the layers of movable paper flaps that can be lifted from the page to reveal something underneath, similar to pop-up books for children.

Two Views Of The Same Image of A Cesarean Section.
G. Spratt, Obstetric tables..., 1847.

Dating back to the late 1500's, these movable books were "originally designed as instructional tools." Flap books mirrored the elements of human dissection, and gave early physicians a means to study the intricacies of the human body layer by layer. According to co-curator Valeria Finucci, "Flap books illustrate bodies immersed in the intellectual, aesthetic, technological, philosophical, gendered, even religious culture of the time in which they were produced...In the interchange between the doctor/anatomist and the illustrator/technician, the body parts that emerge acquire a life, and a beauty, of their own."

George Bartisch.
Ophthalmodouleia, das ist Augendienst..., 1583.

The exhibit "traces the flap book genre beginning with early examples from the sixteenth century, to the colorful 'golden age' of complex flaps of the nineteenth century, and finally to the common children’s pop-up anatomy books of today." It includes volumes from Duke’s Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library , the Duke Medical Center Library & Archives History of Medicine Collection and from the private collections of the curators of the exhibit, Professor Finucci, Director of Duke’s Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and Professor Maurizio Rippa-Bonati, historian of medicine at the University of Padua.

A 10-minute loop of videos from the exhibit.

The physical exhibit is so large, it has been divided between two libraries, the Perkins Library of Humanities and the Duke Medical Center Library. A detailed website includes photographic images, as well as over a half-dozen videos inviting the "viewer to participate in virtual autopsies, through the process of unfolding...movable leaves, simulating the act of human dissection." Links to other online anatomical flap books are also included, allowing the virtual visitor to participate in this early attempt to overcome the limitations of two-dimensional paper. Below is a small sampling of the many fascinating examples of this intriguing genre included in the virtual version of Animated Anatomies.

Heinrich Vogtherr, Anothomia,
oder abconterfettung eines Webys Leyb/

wie er innwendig gestaltet ist, 1539.

This is one of the earliest examples of a flap illustration in the exhibition. In his book Paper Bodies, Antonio Carlino catalogs some of these oldest surviving models dating from the 1530's, and refers to these publications as "fugitive sheets," as they are simply loose leaves of paper not bound in a book. Duke University's History of Medicine Collection holds seven of these singular pages from the sixteenth century. The fugitive sheets are remarkable for still showing multiple layers of the internal organs with very small parts that have somehow survived for almost five centuries.

Frederick Hollick. The origin of life and
process of reproduction..., c.1902.

Frederick Hollick's 1902 work, The origin of life, depicts a pregnant Victorian-era woman. Although this series of images and flaps show many anatomical features, there is not a layer of "naked" skin (except on the baby.) Dr. Hollick was actually charged with obscenity for publishing this illustration. For decades, anatomical flap books were sold with an accompanying locked envelope, particularly those featuring illustrations of the genitals, to avoid legal issues.

G. J. Witkowski.
Human anatomy and physiology,(brain),[1880?-1889].

With the advent of machine printing presses in the nineteenth century, illustration processes became more accurate and efficient. Shown here is the brain from Gustave J. Witkowski’s Human anatomy and physiology. This image has over 200 named parts, with over 20 movable sections to show multiple layers of the brain, from both the top and the bottom. This technology includes both the simplistic flap of single pages folded together as well as the very complex intertwined pieces that lock together to "pop up" as the reader opens the various flaps.

Edward Tuson. Myology,
illustrated by plates, 1828.

The Tuson volume is slightly different from most other flap books or pop ups. The parts are very tightly intertwined and actually difficult to open up. It is as if the user is feeling the pull of the muscles illustrated in the volume as they explore the many layers. Although the pieces can be moved, and underneath images can be seen, the parts don't easily lift up as in other flap books.

Animated Anatomies is an exhibit on display in the Perkins Gallery, Perkins Library, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, and in the History of Medicine Gallery in the Medical Center and Archives Library from April 13-July 17, 2011.

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