Libraries

Mascagni

Plates from the "Most Splendid Anatomy Ever Published."

Paolo MASCAGNI, (1752-1815), Anatomiae universae icones, Double- elephant folio. Engraved title, dedication leaf, 44 black & white outline plates; 44 plates printed in background color & finished by hand. All drawn, engraved & hand-colored by the Italian artist Antonio SERANTONI. 990 x 715 mm. Pisa: Niccolo Capurro, 1823-32.

Mascagni's exquisite anatomy, said to be the largest medical book ever produced, depicts the dissection from skin to skeleton of a human male about 6 feet tall. The entire body can be illustrated by placing three plates end-to-end. Supplementary plates display the female organs, including the pregnant uterus, placenta, and fetus. Mascagni worked on this masterpiece for 25 years, and after his death in 1815, the Mascagni family contracted with the artist Antonio Serantoni to complete the work. All plates were drawn, engraved and hand-colored with meticulous detail, beauty, and accuracy by Serantoni from 1823-32.

Published in Pisa, Italy, the first edition anatomical plates are legendary in the history of anatomy and are unique in the history of graphic art. Only five or six copies are known to exist in the United States. Some copies are entirely in black and white, and because of its rarity, many specialists are unfamiliar with the work. In the field of human anatomy this work is comparable to Audubon's large works on birds and quadrupeds.

Mascagni's fame as an anatomist and connoisseur of anatomical illustration began with the 1787 publication of his beautifully illustrated book on the discovery of the lymphatic system, Vasorum lymphaticorum corporis humani historia et ichnographia. This detailed work presented Mascagni's celebrated discovery of over 50 percent of the lymphatic vessels known today and is also included in the Center for the History of the Health Professions.

These plates are on display in the John J. McDonough Foyer of the Winkler Center.