With 19 Full-page Anatomical Engravings. The Very Rare First Edition

Guillemeau, Jacques (1550?-1613)

Tables anatomiques avec les pourtraicts et declaration d'iceulx ensemble un denombrement de cinq cens maladies diverses au roy par Jac. Guillemeau d'Orleans, chirurgien du Roy & juré a Paris.

Paris: chez Jean Charron A l'Arche rue Sainct Jacques, 1586


Quarto: 30.6 x 20.3 cm. [12], 105, [2] p. *6, A-I6 (with two additional blanks as in the Getty copy.)


Illustrated with 19 splendid copperplate anatomical engravings, a full-paged engraved portrait of Guillemeau at age 35 signed by A. Valleus, and a fine engraved title page, signed by Léonard Gaultier, with portraits of Hippocrates and Galen, an allegorical figure representing surgery, and four smaller figures, personifications of the four “temperaments”. 

Bound in 18th c. quarter calf and paste-paper boards, light wear at extremities. Internally a very fine copy with a few very light spots on a few text leaves and a short clean tear to lower margin of one leaf, no loss. Early ms. notes on several text leaves, and a small number in upper left corner of title. Excellent.

Provenance: With the attractive 18th c. ink stamp “ex-libris Clozier N°_” on the front pastedown and final leaf. This is presumably the 18th c. surgeon Jean-Philippe Clozier.

Jacques Guillemeau served as physician to no fewer than six kings of France, first as assistant to his mentor Ambroise Paré and then as official Royal Surgeon. Remarkably, Guillemeau performed autopsies on two of those six monarchs, Charles IX in 1574 (under the direction of Paré) and Louis XIII in 1610. Guillemeau was himself the son of a surgeon, and his own son, Charles (b. 1588) continued in this tradition, ably working alongside his father.

Most of Guillemeau’s anatomical plates are mirror-image copies of the engravings in the 1560 Italian translation of Valverde's ‘Historia’, which, as we know, were themselves mostly copies of Vesalius’s woodcuts. As the illustrations of Vesalius, and their subsequent reappearances in the work of Valverde and Guillemeau, make clear, the model of classicism became essential not only for the study of the human body, but also for the cultural and intellectual legitimation of illustrated anatomy textbooks. The printed anatomical body of the sixteenth century was not merely a representation of a lifeless cadaver, but a work of art, a sculpture, an artifact, a spectacle, and a curiosity—a sign invested with a thick accretion of meanings. By representing the classical body, fragmented by time, as re-enlivened through its evisceration—by bringing antiquity back to life on the engraved page—the illustrations of Valverde and Guillemeau helped fuse the sometimes-competing projects of humanism and empiricism, of art and science. They lent new authority to the study of anatomy, and they firmly established the body as a site of fascination, inquiry and knowledge.”(Aaron Wile)

The book is divided in 7 Books, beginning with a study of the skeleton. Ch. 2 covers the digestive and reproductive organs (and, in the case of female anatomy, the breasts) and the urinary system. Ch. 3 concerns the vascular system. Ch. 4 Upper thoracic cavity: heart, lungs. Ch. 5 The head. Ch. 6 The nervous system. Ch. 7 Muscles. The book concludes with a thirteen-page table enumerating and describing diseases.

A special note on Female reproductive anatomy and fetal development:

Plates III and IV in the second book of Guillemeau’s “Tables” are specifically dedicated to female anatomy, with emphasis on the reproductive organs. “Both father and son took a particular interest in obstetric surgery and medicine, and (Jacques) Guillemeau was one of a small group of Parisian surgeons who appear to have been summoned by noble or elite families to attend difficult deliveries… It is undoubtedly proof of Guillemeau’s high reputation that he was called to deliver Mlle Simon, daughter of the late Ambroise Paré, when she was in danger of dying from an acute hemorrhage during labor. There are even indications in some cases families would routinely have Guillemeau attend a birth, even if no complications were anticipated.”(Worth-Stylianou, Pregnancy and Birth in Early Modern France, p. 41)

Choulant-Franck, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration, p. 213; Mortimer, Harvard French 267; Norman 256; Haller: I, 258; Pettegree et al., French Vernacular Books, No. 24375