Opera omnia anatomico-medico-chirurgica, huc usque edita.
Ruysch, Frederik, 1638-1731
2 v.; 25 x 19 cm.
During his apprenticeship to an apothecary, Ruysch studied medicine independently. He attended the anatomy lectures of Johannes van Horne at Leiden, and received his M.D. in 1664. Two years later he was appointed praelector in anatomy at the Amsterdam Surgeons' Guild. Among his duties was the teaching of anatomy to midwives, and through him the level of obstretrical care in Amsterdam was raised. In 1679 he became doctor to the Dutch court, an appointment which gave him access to the victims of infanticide and executed criminals. Ruysch became very skillful at making anatomical preparations. He refined Jan Swammerdam's technique of anatomical injection, a concoction of talc, white wax and cinnabar, which he used to illustrate the detailed structure of the vascular system. He also created an embalming liquid, the principle ingredients being alcohol (brandy of Nantes) and black pepper, which he kept a well-guarded secret. Ruysch dispayed his preparations in his remarkable anatomical museum, or 'cabinet', which occupied five rooms of his house in Amsterdam. The museum attracted many dignitaries, including Peter the Great of Russia, who in 1717 bought the entire collection of 935 items; it is still preserved today in St. Petersburg in the Kunstkammer of the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography. (Rumours that only half the specimens reached Russia, as the sailors drank the embalming liquid are probably apocryphal). After the sale Ruysch immediately assembled a second collection, which was sold by auction on his death, the greater part going to John Sobieski, King of Poland, who entrusted the collection to the University of Wittenberg. Ruysch's Thesaurus anatomicus, first published in Amsterdam, 1701-1716, is a catalogue of the collection, illustrated with engraved plates. Many of his specimens border on the grotesque, such as the infant's arm holding an internal organ [Thes. 2, plate I] Other exhibits are supported by plants and decorated with herbs, shells, etc. Ruysch's daughter Rachel embroidered lace garments for his preserved infants. Most striking illustrations are the three collages of fetal skeletons. Engraved by Cornelis Huyberts, from actual specimens in Ruysch's museum, they depict rock formations, made up of a number of kidney, bladder and gall stones. In the first of these plates [Thes. 1, pl. I] vascular trees in which a small bird is perched, are placed between two skeletons. The uppermost skeleton, that of a four-month female fetus, holds a string of pearls in its hand. The skeleton on the left holds a miniature scythe. The skeleton on the right is holding some calculi, and weeps into a mesentery. The captions to the descriptions of the plate express the transitory and miserable nature of life. They include: Cur ea diligere velim, quae sunt in mundo? (Why should I long for things that are of this world?); Homo natus de muliere, brevi vivens tempore, repletur multis miseriis (Man that is born of woman lives but a short time and is full of misery). Nec parcit imbellis juventae poplitibus (Death does not spare even innocent youth). The second collage of fetal skeletons [Thes. 3, pl. I] consists of arteries resembling tree stumps after a forest fire. The central skeleton, that of a four-month fetus, is depicted chanting a lament 'Ah fata, ah aspera fata! (ah fate, ah bitter fate!) to the accompaniment of a violin, made of an osteomyeltic sequester with a dried artery for a bow. To the right is a smaller skeleton conducting with a baton set with kidney stones. Also on the right is a skeleton girdled with sheeps intestines, and grasping a spear made from an adult vas deferens. On the left is a vase made from the inflated tunica albuginea of the testis, behind which stands a skeleton with a feather protruding from its skull. In front lies another skeleton clutching a mayfly in its hand. Fetal membranes, meninges and scattered skeletal remains complete the arrangement The final collage [Thes. 8, pl. I] is a composition of dried human and bovine tracheas and bronchial tubes, set between a pair of twins who are sobbing into mesentery or chorion handkerchiefs with delicate patterns of blood vessels. There is also a good engraving of the heart [Thes. 4, pl. III]. Others include an unusually large hydrocephalus, holding placenta in its arms [Thes. 2, pl. III] a fetus clutching placenta sits on an embroidered cushion [Thes. 3, pl. II].
Heirs of Hippocrates 395-402; Roberts & Tomlinson, p. 290-299; Hagelin, p. 96-101; A.M. Luyendijk-Elshout, 'Death enlightened: a study of Frederik Ruysch', Journal of the American Medical Association, v. 212, no. 1 (6 April 1970), 121-126; Mann, Gunter, 'The anatomical collections of Frederik Ruysch at Leningrad', Bulletin of the Cleveland Medical Library, v. 11 (1964), 10-13; DSB.
Jason A. Hannah Collection
Added engraved title page, dated 1720.
General title page; each of the 44 tracts has special title page, dated from 1720 to 1738, and separate paging.
Janssonius van Waesberge, Hendrik