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The Art of Anatomy in Medieval Europe (Medieval Lives)

The Art of Anatomy in Medieval Europe (Medieval Lives)

Current price: $22.50
Publication Date: August 15th, 2023
Reaktion Books
The MIT Press Bookstore
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A new history of the medieval illustrations that birthed modern anatomy.
This book is the first history of medieval European anatomical images. Richly illustrated, The Art of Anatomy in Medieval Europe explores the many ways in which medieval surgeons, doctors, monks, and artists understood and depicted human anatomy. Taylor McCall refutes the common misconception that Renaissance artists and anatomists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Andreas Vesalius were the fathers of anatomy who performed the first human dissections. On the contrary, she argues that these Renaissance figures drew upon centuries of visual and written tradition in their works.

About the Author

Taylor McCall is the managing editor of Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies.

Praise for The Art of Anatomy in Medieval Europe (Medieval Lives)

"McCall dismantles the common belief that Renaissance figures such as Leonardo da Vinci and Andreas Vesalius founded the field of human anatomy. Assisted by vivid medieval illustrations, she argues that the earliest anatomical images date from the twelfth century, in monasteries and then early universities. Her scholarly book, the first in this field, aims to show that such imagery is 'its own visual language', by exploring anatomy in religious contexts, medical teaching and practice, and the work of professional artists."
— Nature

“There is a myth that medieval Europeans did not understand human anatomy and did not perform human dissections. Taylor McCall’s new book definitively disproves that and has the images to back it up.”

“The image of the so-called Dark Ages leadenly fumbling in crude ignorance is as persistent as all too-easy images are. This little book should completely dispel that image. McCall consults a long list of often obscure written sources and, crucially, deploys a stunning array of the anatomical illustrations that filled so many books from the 12th to the 15th century. Those illustrations are the central wonder of the book; they immediately transport the reader to an earlier world full of desperate speculation and the inevitable melding of anatomical studies and the cosmologies of organized religion.”
— Open Letters Review

"McCall offers an exciting new overview of the deep connections between visual and medical culture during the European Middle Ages. An important revision to the outdated caricature of medieval anatomy as intellectually and artistically backwards, this book tours the rich and varied personalities—monks, university anatomists, physicians, artists, and artist-anatomists—who generated both detailed knowledge and eloquent visualizations of the bodily interior. What results is a powerful argument: that medieval people had a close interest anatomical form, striving to innovate how the body was understood and how it was pictured."
— Jack Hartnell, author of 'Medieval Bodies: Life, Death and Art in the Middle Ages'

"McCall's The Art of Anatomy in Medieval Europe is rich and scholarly, full of images both gorgeous and grisly and giving much needed attention to medieval anatomical art."
— Mary Wellesley, author of 'Hidden Hands: The Lives of Manuscripts and Their Makers'