Andreae Vesalii Bruxellensis, Invictissimi Caroli V. Imperatoris medici, de Humani corporis fabrica Libri septem.

Andreas Vesalius

RA Collection: Book

Record number



Uniform Title

[De humani corporis fabrica., 1555.]

Variant Title



Cum Cæsareæ Maiest. Galliarum Regis, ac Senatus Veneti gratia & privilegio, ut in diplomatis eorundem continetur., Basileæ,: Per Ioannem Oporinum., (MDLV.)

Physical Description

[10], 824, [46] p., engr. t.-pl.: illus., port.; 417 mm. (Folio).

General Note

The 'Series Chartarum' records that the publication is bound chiefly in sixes (terniones), and lists the exceptions.


[T.-pl.] - [Preface] - Ioanni Oporino ... amico - [Port.] - [Text] - Errata - Rerum ... Index - Series Chartarum - [colophon] - [motto plate].

Responsibility Note

No illustration is signed.

Vesalius's preface is addressed to the emperor Charles V.


F. Guerra, 'The identity of the artists involved in Vesalius' Fabrica', in Medical history, 13 (1969), p.37-50; University of Cambridge, Catalogue Of Books Printed On The Continent Of Europe, 1501-1600, ed. H.M. Adams (1967), v.II. V605; H. W. Cushing, A bio-bibliography of Andreas Vesalius (1962); G.A. Lindeboom, Andreas Vesalius (1964); C.D. O'Malley, Andreas Vesalius of Brussels (1964); G. Harcourt, 'Andreas Vesalius and the anatomy of antique sculpture', in Representations 17 (1987), p. 28-60.

Summary Note

The publication of Vesalius's De humani corporis fabrica in 1543 had marked an era in the study of anatomy, especially by the quality of its illustrations. It was Vesalius's second book (his Tabulae sex had appeared in 1538); and was accompanied in the same year by his De humani corporis fabrica librorum epitome, and by a German translation of the latter. This 1555 edition of the Fabrica incorporates a number of revisions, chiefly relating to the representing of some features of human anatomy from the dissection of animals; but the text makes clear that some inaccuracies have been deliberately left in, to illustrate mistakes in Galen. The lasting impact of Vesalius's book rested not only on his fresh examination of the body independently of ancient authorities but equally on its careful marriage of text and illustration.

We do not know who cut the original wood-blocks (Jan Stephen van Calcar, Sansovino or Titian have all at various times been suggested). They were re-used, with some recutting, in this 1555 edition.

A piratical copy of the Fabrica (incorporating some text and illustration from the Epitome) was issued in London in 1545 (T. Geminus, Compendiosa totius anatomie delineatio), and an English translation in 1553 - both with good copper-plate copies of the original woodcuts.

The 1555 Fabrica is the oldest work on anatomy in the Royal Academy's Library, and was among the first which the Academy acquired.

Two preparatory drawings for the work are thought to have survived - one at Stockholm and one at Glasgow University.


The original woodcuts for the Fabrica and the Epitome survived until the second World War, and were used to print Andreae Vesalii Bruxellensis Icones Anatomicae (New York and Munich, 1934).


Inscribed in ink on the title plate, 'Given by Fras Cotes to the Royal Academy'. The date of this donation is not recorded in RAA Council Minutes; but Francis Cotes died on 19 July 1770.

Binding Note

20th-century half calf, grey cloth boards; spine lettered, 'Vesalii Anatomia R.A. 1545'.


Human Anatomy
Treatises - Switzerland - 16th century
Pictorial works - Woodcuts - Switzerland - 16th century


Joannes Oporinus, publisher
Charles V Holy Roman Emperor, dedicatee
Francis Cotes RA, previous owner, donor
Jan Steven van Calcar, draughtsman

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