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Osteographia, Or The Anatomy Of The Bones. By William Cheselden Surgeon To Her Majesty; F.R.S. Surgeon To St. Thomas's Hospital, And Member Of The Royal Academy Of Surgery At Paris.

William Cheselden

RA Collection: Book

Record number



Variant Title

Anatomy of the bones



Physical Description

[164] p., frontis., 56 pl.: 56, [32] illus.; 459 mm. (Folio).

General Note

The text of chapters I-VIII includes [32] illustrations. These are followed by full-page illustrations 1-56, each carrying text on the verso (except no. 56, which carries on its verso an unnumbered illustration), and reference-letters on the recto. These are followed by the same illustrations presented as plates 1-56, without reference-letters on the recto, and with versos blank (except no. 56, which shows on its verso an unnumbered illustration and the word 'Finis').


[Frontis., t.p., port., dedic.] - To The Reader - The Introduction - [Text, with full-page illus. I-LVI lettered] - [Plates I-LVI unlettered].

Responsibility Note

According to Cheselden's address 'To The Reader' 'Two of the smaller plates, the head of the man-tyger, and the sceleton of the tortoise, and all the large plates except viii. xi. xxi. and xxxi. were done by Mr. Gerard Vandergucht ... The rest were performed by Mr. Shinevoet'; and 'where particular parts needed to be more distinctly expressed on account of the anatomy, there I always directed; sometimes in the drawings with the pencil, and often with the needle upon the copper-plate'.

The work is dedicated by the author to the Queen (Caroline).


K. F. Russell, 'The Osteographia of William Cheselden' in Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 28:1 (1954), p.32-49; K.F. Russell, British anatomy 1525-1800 (2/ 1987), nos. 171-8; Z. Cope, William Cheselden, 1688-1752 (1953).

On the Vanderguchts see H. A. Hammelmann and T.S. R. Boase, Book illustrators in eighteenth-century England (1975), p. 86-96; H. A. Hammelmann, 'A family of book illustrators', in Times Literary Supplement (26 July 1957). On Schijnvoet see W. R. Lefanu, 'The anatomical drawings by Jacobus Schijnvoet', in Oud Holland, 1960, p. 54-8.
ESTC, T78073

Summary Note

From 1711 to his retirement in 1737 or 1738 the surgeon Cheselden was the leading teacher of anatomy in London. In 1713 he published The anatomy of the humane body, a popular work, reprinted until 1792; and in 1733, this more elaborate production.

The book has two sets of 56 plates or full-page illustrations - 'one set unlettered to shew them in their full beauty, and one set lettered for explanations' (chap. viii). These include skeletal versions of the Medici Venus and Apollo Belvedere (pl. 34, 35) and a Praying Skeleton (pl. 36). To help with the representing of bones in two-dimensional format Cheselden used a camera obscura - 'my engravers ... knew too well the difficulties of representing irregular lines, perspective, and proportion, to despise such assistance' - and he shows this piece of equipment in the title-page vignette, pointing at an inverted skeleton being arranged on a tripod by his pupil, John Belchier.

In November 1733 Cheselden's work was reviewed by Belchier in no. 430 of the Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society; in 1735 it was attacked by John Douglas in a pamphlet entitled Animadversions on a late pompous book, intituled, Osteographia.

The preparatory drawings for the plates may be seen at the Royal Academy (presented by Belchier).


A microfilm version was published in 2005 (Woodbridge, Conn.: Primary Source Microfilm). A facsimile was published in 1979 (Ilkley, UK: Scolar Press).


The title-page is inscribed in ink, 'Given by John Belchier Esq.' Belchier presented the book to the Academy by 25 October 1771 (RAA Council Minutes, I, 111), together with the preparatory drawings for the work.

Copy Note

An additional leaf is bound in before the dedication; to which is pasted an engraved portrait of William Cheselden signed as painted by I. Richardson and made by I. Faber and carrying the date of 1753.

Binding Note

19th-century half calf, brown cloth-covered boards; rebacked and recornered in 1988, retaining earlier spine-piece lettered 'R.A. 1733' and red morocco spine-label lettered 'Cheselden's Anatomy Of The Bones'.


Bones - Anatomy - Skeleton - Bone diseases - People
Manuals - Great Britain - 18th century
Pictorial works - Great Britain - 18th century


Images from this book

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