Tabulae Sceleti et Musculorum Corporis Humani was arguably the most important illustrated anatomical work of the 18th century. Anatomist Bernhard Siegfried Albinus ,with artist Jan Wandelaar, carefully composed each rendering to find the optimal point of view from which the anatomy could be best viewed, and took pains to depict them in accurate proportions and shade them to convey their three-dimensional form. The complex process involved supporting the specimens with stands and cords attached to the walls and ceiling while checking the accuracy of the poses against a thin male model who posed nude in the same position. Furthermore, the artist viewed the specimens through a gridded net to capture the precise proportions. The active poses and backgrounds incorporate elaborate Baroque landscapes and architecture, placing the figures in a spatial context and adding aesthetic interest. The original atlas was published in Leiden in 1747 with 40 plates that Wandelaar engraved after his own drawings. The plates offered here were engraved after those prints by Charles Grignion for an unauthorized English edition, published by John and Paul Knapton in London i1748-49.
Bernard Siegfried Albinus was a physician and professor who devoted a 49-year career to the study of anatomy. Something of a prodigy, he entered the University of Leiden at age 12 and became a professor of anatomy at the University of Leiden at the age of 24, and eventually became chair of Anatomy and Surgery. In 1723, Albinus was collaborating with his mentor, the professor Herman Boerhaave, on a new edition of the writings of Flemish anatomist Vesalius, when Wandelaar joined them in the project. Next, Albinus and Wandelaar embarked on the painstaking process of producing Tabulae Sceleti et Musculorum Corporis Humani , which took them 20 years to complete. Their close collaboration and friendship lasted until Wandelaar’s death in 1759.
Prior to meeting Albinus, Jan Wandelaar was already an accomplished natural history artist. He studied with Dutch printmaker Jacob Folkema, Dutch engraver and mapmaker Gillem van der Gouwen, and anatomical artist Gérard de Lairesse. He also had worked with the botanist and anatomist Fredrik Ruysch.
Charles Grignion I was an accomplished English engraver.
John and Paul Knapton operated a bookselling and publishing firm active between 1735 and 1789. John was apprenticed to his father, a leading London bookseller, between 1712 and 1719. He continued working in the family business until his father’s death in 1736, at which point he and his brother Paul took over. The firm is associated with almost 300 portraits in the collection of Britain’s National Portrait Gallery, and is known for publishing some of the most significant literary works of the day, including a complete edition of the works of Alexander Pope and the first edition of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary.
Full publication credits: C. Grignion Sculp. Impensis J. & P. Knapton Londini, 1748.
Condition: Each print recently professionally cleaned and deacidified, and backed on supporting Japanese tissue, with some remaining toning and wear. Some light scattered faint soiling and discolorations, and repaired chips and tears to margins. Back view with two tears into image, restored as above, and unobtrusive though noticeable on close examination.
“Bernhard Siegfried Albinus.’ University of Virginia, Historical Collections at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library. 2007. http://exhibits.hsl.virginia.edu/treasures/bernhard-siegfried-albinus-1697-1770/ (25 February 2019).
“John & Paul Knapton.” National Portrait Gallery, UK. https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person/mp67412/john–paul-knapton (25 February 2019).
Wilson-Pauwels, Linda. “Jan Wandelaar, Bernard Siegfried Albinus and an Indian Rhinoceros Named Clara Set High Standards as the Process of Anatomical Illustration Entered a New Phase of Precision, Artistic Beauty, and Marketing in the 18th Century.” Journal of Biocommunication. Vol. 35, No. 1. 2009. http://www.jbiocommunication.org/issues/35-1/assets/feature2/Wilson-Pauwels_JBCv35n1.pdf (25 February 2019).