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The Anatomy Of Humane Bodies, With Figures Drawn After The Life By some Of The Best Masters in Europe, And Curiously Engraven In One Hundred and Fourteen Copper Plates, Illustrated With Large Explications, Containing Many New Anatomical Discoveries, And Chirurgical Observations: To Which Is Added An Introduction Explaining The Animal Oeconomy, With A Copious Index. By William Cowper.

William Cowper

RA Collection: Book

Record number




Oxford: Printed At The Theater, For Sam. Smith and Benj. Walford, Printers to the Royal Society, At the Princes Arms in St. Paul's Church Yard, London, MDCXCVIII.

Physical Description

[138] p., frontis. (port.), add. engr. t.pl., t. pl., 105 (2 fold.), 9 [i.e. 12] pl.; 634 mm.

General Note

The folded pl. are nos. 10, 23. In the second group of numbered plates leaves 6, 8, 9, carry two prints each. ESTC describes copies having [144] p. and 114 leaves of plates (some fold.).


[Frontis., add. t.pl., t.pl., dedic.] - The Introduction ... - To the Reader - [Text, with pl. 1-105] - An Appendix ... [with pl. 1-9] - The Index.

Responsibility Note

The address 'To the Reader' states that the text was revised by Tancred Robinson, and the Index compiled by James Fern.

The frontispiece mezzotint portrait of Cowper is signed as painted by I. Closterman and made by I. Smith; the added engraved title-plate is unsigned; the title-plate (incorporating a vignette of Oxford) is signed as engraved and scripted by I. Short. Of the first series of plates (numbered 1-105) none is signed. Of the second series (numbered 1-9) all are signed as engraved by M. Vander Gucht, apart from no. 8, which is unsigned; plates 1,2 are additionally signed as drawn by H. Cook. Decorative tailpieces, initials and two in-text illustrations are unsigned.

The work is dedicated by William Cowper to 'Charles Mountague, First Lord Of The Treasury ... President Of The Royal-Society, &c.'


ESTC, R10024
The ingenious machine of nature: four centuries of art and anatomy, ed. M. Cazort et al. [exhibition catalogue] (1996), nos. 72-74.4
K.B. Roberts and J.D.W. Tomlinson, The fabric of the body: European traditions of anatomical illustration (1992)
C. Gysel, 'L'Anatomia de Govert Bidloo (1685) et le plagiat de William Cowper (1698)', in Revue Belge de médecine dentaire, 42 (1987), p.96-101
F.F. Buckman and J.W. Futrell, 'William Cowper', in Surgery 99:5 (1986), p. 582-590
P. Dumaitre, La curieuse destinée des planches anatomiques de Gérard de Lairesse (1982)
F. Beekman, 'Bidloo and Cowper, anatomists', in Annals of medical history, new ser. 7 (1935), p.113-129.

Summary Note

Cowper had earlier published his Myotomia reformata (1694). In the present work he provides explanatory observations on plates by Gerard de Lairesse earlier published by Govard Bidloo (Anatomia humani corporis, 1685). Smith and Walford had bought pulls of the plates of the Dutch 1690 edition from Bidloo's publishers; and to these Cowper adds a new text in English and an appendix of nine further plates with comments. The title on the added engraved title plate, 'The Anatomy of Humane Bodies By Willm. Cowper Surgeon 1698', is pasted over the original one naming Bidloo. Cowper acknowledges in his address 'To the Reader' that 'These Figures were Drawn after the Life, by the Masterly Painter G. de Lairess, and Engrav'd by no less a Hand, ... and were some time since Published by Dr. Bidloo ...'; but this did not prevent Bidloo from accusing him of plagiarism.

That Cowper was aware of artists' need of anatomical knowledge is shown throughout his comments on Plate 3: 'If a strong person is to be represented ... the Painter, or Sculptor is to consider, which are those parts, or limbs imply'd in the chiefest Force of the Action ... le him be sure one leg, in particular its Foot, be in one right Line, or perpendicular to the trunk ... as it is well exprest in ... the Gladiator in Prince Borghese's Palace ... of which, we have ... a ... Cast, plac'd by the Canal in St. James's Park. ... when we see, we may know what to observe, and the Reason why it appears so in the Life'.


Acquired between 1802 and 1821. Recorded in RAA Library, Catalogue, 1821.

Copy Note

Inscribed in ink on the title-plate, 'TAR [?] 1698'.

Binding Note

20th-century half calf, brown cloth-covered boards; red morocco spine-label lettered 'Cowper's Anatomy', spine lettered 'R.A.' and '1698'.


Anatomy - Human anatomy
Atlases - Manuals - Great Britain - 17th century
Pictorial works - Great Britain - 17th century


John Closterman, source artist
Samuel Smith, publisher
Benjamin Walford, publisher
John Smith, engraver
I. Short, engraver
H. Cook, draughtsman
Michael van der Gucht, engraver
Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax, dedicatee
Gerard de Lairesse, draughtsman

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