De Humani Corporis Fabrica by the 16th century Flemish anatomist Andreas Vesalius is rightly regarded as one of the greatest books in the history of medicine. It is a monumental work, both in terms of its intellectual content and as a spectacular example of early modern printing. Printed on large paper in folio format, and written in a complex form of Latin, it was a book for the intellectual elite. Today it has pride of place in rare book collections all over the world, and it is celebrated for its contributions to the intellectual and artistic development of anatomy.
The Becker Medical Library at Washington University in St. Louis is fortunate to have both a 1543 and 1555 edition of the Fabrica. Our copies came to us through the generosity of Doctor H. Richard Tyler, who graduated from the Washington University School of Medicine in 1951 and went on to serve as Professor of Neurology at the Harvard Medical School. An avid book collector, he assembled one of the world’s finest collections on the history of neurology. While his collection contains multiple editions of the works of neurological giants such as Thomas Willis, Jean Martin Charcot, and Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Dr. Tyler also understood the importance of gross anatomy to the development of neuroscience, and therefore collected anatomical atlases including those of Vesalius, Valverde, and Estienne.