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Travels with Vesalius

Someday I would like to write something about maps or travel in the Medieval or Early Modern time period. I don't have any particular ideas at this point. I know it's a relatively popular subject, but it's one I keep wandering back to in a very casual way.

Studying Vesalius this week reminded me of this. Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) was born in Brussels, did his undergraduate degree locally at Louvain (now Leuwens), studied medicine at the University of Paris before the war between France and the Holy Roman Empire inconveniently flared up, travelled to Padova, where the best medical university in the West of his day was, and four days later, had his doctorate of medicine in hand and was teaching. He went to Basel (conveniently en route between Padova and Louvain) to supervise the woodcuts for his De Humani Corporis Fabrica. Later, he travelled all over the place as an army surgeon. With the permission of his employer, he eventually made it to the Holy Lands and died in Greece in a shipwreck en route back home. Sure, his journeys don't begin to rival that of consummate travels such as - say - Ibn Battuta - but then travel is not what Vesalius is best known for. But travelling not only makes his life more interesting to read about, but also, at least for me, makes it easier to remember what he did and in what order. I can see it in the geography.


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Jan. 18th, 2003 07:09 pm (UTC)
Map stuff
One of my friends is doing her thesis on maps in the earliest days of the print era: she's always bubbling over with her map-related thoughts, because she has to spend so much of her time up to her neck in map info, and her burbling is always terribly interesting. "Look at the way the cities are oriented on this map: all the views are the views you would see from the water. The cartographer went down the coast, probably never went inland..." "Look at all the gallows pictured here on this map-- they were considered positive, by the way. They meant, 'this place under the rule of law'...." Very fun.

As for Vesalius: I've never really heard much about his life before, and didn't realize he was so well traveled. Being an art historian, I think of him mainly in terms of the gorgeous gorgeous pictures in De Humani Corporis Fabrica. I have a jpg of one of the woodcuts on my computer, a depiction of the skeleton. The skeleton is shown in a lovely, mournful position, twisted slightly around the center line of the picture, rather than simply straight-on as a modern anatomy text would picture it.

My favorite pic, which I haven't scanned but desperatey hope to, is one showing the musculature. Instead of simply showing a human body's muscle structure, it shows a figure with most of its muscle layer conveniently displayed to the viewer, and the skin that would cover that muscle layer drooped to the sides, hanging here and there, wiggling a bit in a quiet breeze. The figure holds the attributes of a saint who was martyred by being flayed, a saint whose name escapes me at the moment...
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