Anatomical

Last weekend was the annual Doors Open Day, when buildings not normally open to the public let people into visit. I’m still sorting a stack of photographs I shot as we tramped all round town, from designer make-overs by local architectural practises in old mews buildings to places like the observatory on Calton Hill and the Royal College of Physicians in the New Town. I’ll post a few more when I get time to sort them out, but I thought I’d kick off with these few shots taken in their two libraries; these are rare 17th century medical volumes, which the College Fellow on duty in the library was kind enough to let me photograph as long as I obviously refrained from using the flash (in stark contrast to the folks at Scottish Heritage who didn’t allow any photography even of the Georgian rooms, which seems extremely backward to me if you are inviting in visitors, especially if you are a public body – bad marks to SH, big thumbs up to the RCP who really made an effort to make visitors welcome and encouraged photo-taking).


(click the pics to see the larger versions on the Woolamaloo Flickr stream)

Apologies for the reflections here, but as the books were under glass there wasn’t really anyway round them – it was either reflections of the lights or stand right over it and get my camera in the reflections, but the quality of the draughtmanship here was far too good not to try taking a pic. These books pre-date the Act of Union between Scotland and England.

Just look at the detail in this anatomical study of the human skeleton and musculature; the cross hatching and shading is amazing. More so when you consider this is around three centuries old and an artist created this by hand and another artist would then have laboriously created a negative inscribed into a copper plate for printing. Books like this, being disseminated all over Europe by groups like the Royal College, are physical artefacts of the birth of the modern era, the move from superstition to reason and science, exploring the natural world and our own physiques to find new wonder even the greatest minds of Classical Antiquity could never have dreamed of. They are also gorgeous works of craftsmanship and art. A modern Gray’s Anatomy (a standard text for most doing medical degrees) may be more informative and accurate, but it lacks the elegance and beauty of this work.

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