Detail map of Marburg, Hessen, Germany Overview map of Marburg, Hessen, Germany

A: Marburg, Hessen, Germany

Johann Dryander & Hans Brosamer Issue the First Significant Book on the Anatomy of the Head

1536 to 1537

 Johann Dryander, one of the first German doctors to perform public disections, published his 'Anatomia Capitis Humani' in 1536, which contained the most extensive study on the human head to date, and the first 'Galenic dissection' of the brain.  (View Larger)

In 1536 German physician, anatomist, mathematician and astronomer Johann Dryander published Anatomia capitis humani. . . . in Marburg. Dryander's work was the first significant book on the anatomy of the head, and one of the earliest anatomical works with illustrations after the author's own dissections. The thin quarto of 14 leaves includes 11 full-page woodcut text illustrations, 5 of which are signed with a monogram consisting of an open pair of compasses (the emblem of the Apostle Thomas) above the letter "G", frequently with the initials "GVB" or "VB" inscribed above. This monogram has been linked to the Basel woodcutter Georg Thomas, and also to the German painter and woodcut engraver Hans Brosamer

Dryander, who studied anatomy at Paris at the same time as Vesalius, produced in his Anatomia capitis one of the most important pre-Vesalian anatomical studies, showing by means of full-page woodcuts how he learned to dissect and display human anatomy. He was one of the first physicians in Germany to perform public dissections, and the text of Anatomia capitis is the printed record of an anatomical demonstration he gave at Marburg. Anatomia capitis was probably published in a small edition, as Dryander intended it to serve as the preliminary to a full-scale anatomy.

This scheme Dryander partially realized the following year when he issued his Anatomia, hoc est corporis humani dissectionis pars prior. That expanded work included 36 leaves and 19 full-age woodcuts, plus a woodcut title border. Eight of the woodcuts (one of which is repeated) are repetitions of illustrations 1-8 in the 1536 Anatomia, with the illustration numbers removed from the blocks. Another 8 woodcuts (one, Universalis figura capitis humani, repeated) are new to this work; 3 of them are signed with the monogrammed compass device used in the 1536 edition. In addition, there are 3 illustrations made up of images rearranged from illustrations 9, 10 and 11 of the 1536 Anatomia. 

Dryander's Anatomiae contained a more extensive anatomy of the human head than his Anatomia capitis and included material on the lungs and heart; it also reprinted the manual for pig dissection, Anatomia porci, traditionally ascribed to Copho (fl. 1110), and excerpts from the Anatomia infantis of Gabriele de Zerbis.

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (1920) 148-149. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) nos. 656-57.

Timeline Themes

Related Entries