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Image of the Week: Traité d'Anatomie et de Physiologie from 1786

This image comes from the Traité d'Anatomie et de Physiologie, a weighty tome and monumental piece of work completed by Marie-Antoinette’s last physician, Félix Vicq d’Azyr.

As was common during the Age of Enlightenment, Vicq d’Azyr wore many hats - physician, anatomist, medical historian and social reformer. In creating the Traité d'Anatomie et de Physiologie, Vicq d’Azyr emphasized the importance of integrating anatomy and physiology. From the United States National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health:

The main substance of the book, brain anatomy, consists of five parts, each containing six to eight sections of the brain or parts of it, coloured by means of aquatint. Each plate is accompanied by an explanatory drawing of the same size. Most sections are more or less in the axial plane, though some look definitely unfamiliar. The drawings were made by Briceau, who is thanked by the author for his skills, stamina, and endurance of foul odours. Probably alcoholic solutions were used to harden the brain; it was only a little later that this method became standard, through the work of Reil (1759–1813). In each of the five parts the plates are preceded by detailed explanations of every section and followed by an ‘historical reflection’, with comments on the work of previous anatomists (Bidloo, Vieussens, Eustachius, Willis, Monro, Haller, and many others). Often Vicq d’Azyr chides them for inaccuracy of their illustrations or descriptions; even the great Vesalius is not spared. In one instance he copies an illustration he cannot improve upon (Soemmering’s view of the base of the brain). Vicq d′Azyr was the first to describe not only the mamillothalamic tract, now named after him, but also the substantia nigra.

Via BibliOdyssey

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