Rome: Bartholomeo Bonfadini, Tito Diano, 1585. Piccolomini, Archangelo (1525-86). Anatomicae praelectiones. Folio. , 280 [i.e., 278], pp. Engraved portrait of Piccolomini on title signed “M. G. F.” and dated 1585; 9 anatomical woodcuts in the text. Rome: Ex typographia Bartholomaei Bonfadini, & Titi Diani, 1585. 328 x 225 mm. Limp vellum ca. 1585, title inked on spine, front cover separating at hinge, a few small holes along outer front hinge, some stains. Some browning and foxing, particularly in signatures G, V and X, early owner’s name crossed out on title, but a fine copy. Several marginal notes in an early hand throughout. 18th-century ownership inscription on front flyleaf: “Mei Emanuellis Baptistae Riccii,” probably referring to Emanuele Ricci d’Albegna, member of an important Ligurian family. Long manuscript note titled “De polsi, e loro differenze,” probably written by Ricci, on back flyleaf. From the library of Jean Blondelet. First Edition, Extremely Rare First Issue, with title dated 1585, engraved full-length portrait of Piccolomini showing him dramatically holding up a corpse by the hair, and dedication to Jacopo Boncompagni, Duke of Sora (1548-1612). As far as we can tell, there are no copies of this issue in American libraries. Piccolomini, papal physician from the early 1560s to his death in 1586 (serving Popes Pius IV, Pius V, Gregory XIII and Sixtus V), taught anatomy and medical practice at the Sapienza Hospital in Rome. In his Anatomicae praelectiones, based on his university course lectures, Piccolomini published several significant original observations. “Among his more noteworthy descriptions were those of the abdominal muscles, the termination of the acoustic nerve, the anastomoses of the fetal heart, and the differences between the male and female pelvis. He was the first anatomist after Salomon Alberti (1585) to describe the venous valves as a general phenomenon, although, like Alberti, Piccolomini probably learned of the valves from Fabrici, who had publicly announced the discovery at Padua in 1578 or 1579” (Jerome J. Bylebyl, in Dictionary of Scientific Biography). Some of Piccolomini’s anatomical descriptions are illustrated in his book’s nine woodcut dramatic and original woodcut illustrations, which, unlike most anatomical illustrations of this period, do not derive from the images in Vesalius’s Fabrica. The striking engraved portrait of Piccolomini, signed “M. G. F.,” is sometimes attributed to German engraver Matthias Greuter (ca. 1564/66 – 1638); this attribution cannot be correct, however, since Greuter was not in Italy at the time Piccolomini’s book was published (see “Matthias Greuter (biographical details).” British Museum. Trustees of the British Museum, n.d. Web). Among Piccolomini’s most significant observations was the “first description of a clear separation between gray and white matter” (Catani, Brain Renaissance: From Vesalius to Modern Neuroscience, p. 191). According to Larry Swanson, professor of biological sciences, neurology and psychology at USC, Piccolomini "was the first to provide a clear distinction in the central nervous system between two basic substances, one being more compact, white, and medullary or fibrous (our white matter) and the other being softer, grayish, and glandular (our gray matter). Piccolomini went on to divide the brain as a whole into “cerebrum” and marrow, with the former being the gray or ash-colored and encompassing the rest—the marrow. In addition, he divided the marrow as a whole into one part in the skull and the other in the spinal column. In today’s terminology, his cerebrum is equivalent to the cerebral cortex, whereas his medulla includes our basal ganglia (cerebral nuclei), brainstem, and spinal cord. This basic description was extremely influential well into the nineteenth century (it was adapted, for example, by Willis in 1664), and it was illustrated with an anatomical woodcut that was more schematic than anatomically accurate (on p. 265). It appears to be the first attempt to illustrate the brain in a sagittal view. . . He divided the intracranial part of the medulla into a globose part (medulla globosa), roughly our cerebral nuclei, interbrain, midbrain, and pons; and an intracranial oblong part (intracranial medulla oblongata), the first indication of the term commonly applied to our medulla [emphases ours]" (Swanson, private communication). A search of the library databases shows only five copies of the 1585 issue, all in Italian libraries; there are no copies in North American institutions. There appear to eight copies of the 1586 issue in American libraries. The more common 1586 issue seems to represent a reissue of the sheets printed in 1585 but with the preliminary leaves completely reset, substituting a new portrait of Piccolomini (also dated 1586) on the title, omitting Tito Diano’s name from the imprint, and changing the dedicatee from Jacopo Boncompagni to Pope Sixtus V (1521-90), who ascended to the papacy in 1585. The dedication change was most likely done for political reasons: Boncompagni, Duke of Sora and leader of the papal army, was the illegitimate son of Sixtus’s predecessor, Gregory XIII, whose influence had helped Boncompagni to become the most powerful man in central Italy. Boncompagni fell out of favor after Pope Sixtus V’s election, however, and he was stripped of all of his charges in the Papal States. As physician to both Gregory and Sixtus, Piccolomini would naturally have wanted to stay on the good side of each; his dedication to Boncompagni would have flattered Gregory but displeased Sixtus, which is no doubt why he made the change. (Inventory #: 44082)
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