For those of you with a taste for all things anatomical there can be no better start than Andreas Vesalius’ 1543 De humani corporis fabrica (On the Workings of the Human Body).
This was a revolutionary book on publication – Versalius strove to put anatomy at the forefront of science, rejected conceived wisdom and mumbo jumbo relating to cosmology and the work of his peers – made largely from animal dissection.
What I love about this book are the illustrations – they stand out not only for their scientific value but for their splendor and beauty of execution. They are represented not as slabs of muscle, bone and connective tissue but in realistic settings. Skelton’s are shown in classical poses, standing, posing in grand landscapes or even contemplating mortality. The drawings are now attributed to Titian’s pupil Jan Stephen van Calcar.
Vesalius came to somewhat of a tragic end – on a pilgramage to the Holy land he was sailing on the Ionian Sea, and was wrecked on the island of Zakynthos. Here he soon died in such debt that, if a benefactor had not paid for a funeral, his remains would have been thrown to the animals. At the time of his death he was scarcely fifty years of age.