1627 · Milan:
"Aselli ..., who had been a pupil of Fallopius, practiced as a surgeon in Milan. There he continued his anatomic research and wrote in a more dynamic manner and with greater physiologic insight than has his predecessors, whose approach had been essentially teleologic and descriptive. Although Aselli's notebooks and jottings for lectures have never been published, he is renowned for this small volume, which was published two years after his death at the age of forty-five.
'The book records his chance discovery of the lacteal vessels in 1622 while he was displaying the mesenteric nerves of a dog at an anatomic demonstration. In this fed animal, he noted a network of mesenteric vessels that contained a whitish fluid. Because such engorgement was absent in a fasting animal, he concluded that it was related to recent feeding.
"Writing before the publication of Harvey's work on the circulation, Aselli maintained that the liver was the center of the venous system and believed, as did Galen, that the intestinal veins carried chyle to the liver. Harvey knew that the Galenic account was wrong and remained skeptical about the existence of lacteals; the contradiction was cleared away when Jean Pecquet announced his discovery of the thoracic duct in 1651.
"In his text, which comprises thirty-five chapters, Aselli took up the intestines in general, their veins, arteries, nerves, and a 'fourth, new kind? of vessels. He explained why he had named the vessels and asked why they remained undiscovered for so long. He presented their anatomy in great detail and wondered whether they were supplied with chyle or blood. He also described the transit of chyle to the liver and discussed the contribution of the new vessels to the formation of blood.
"The book was illustrated with a copperplate portrait of the author at the age of forty-two, when he made his discovery, and with four large foldout plates showing the lacteals in animal dissections. These are most remarkable woodcuts, both for their display of the dissections and for the method in which they were produced. . . The Aselli plates were the first colored illustrations in an anatomic text." – Lilly-LeFanu, Notable Medical Books, p. 61.
PROVENANCE: Rubber-stamp of Doctor Mario E. Spada, a 20th century surgeon.
REFERENCES: Choulant-Frank, pp. 240-41; Garrison and Morton 1094; Grolier, One Hundred Books Famous in Medicine, 26; Heirs of Hippocrates 453; Krivatsy 446; Lilly, Notable Medical Books, 61; Haskell Norman 76; Osler 1846; Waller 502; Wellcome 6837. (Inventory #: M13101)