Ungilding the lily

The Mikrokosmographia title page illustration (1615 edition), reproduced two ways. Top: Photograph (unevenly lit) of the copy held at the University of Iowa; Bottom: Photocopy from C.D. O’Malley’s Bulletin of the History of Medicine article reproducing another 1615 edition copy

The lower half of Crooke’s title page features the images of two bodies, one male and one female. Like the rest of Crooke’s illustrations (and much of his text), these originated in other sources, “the veined man from a zodiacal chart on phlebotomy and the woman from an almanac,” according to Elizabeth Lane Furdell in Publishing and Medicine in Early Modern England (52). C.D. O’Malley, who sees the inclusion of these images on the title page as a blatant flaunting of Crooke’s defiance in regard to the book’s attempted suppression, identifies the illustrations as “a male and a pregnant female figure borrowed from Bauhin’s Theatrum anatomicum, the latter one of the so-called indecent figures previously condemned by the College” (8). That these sources cite different origins for the illustrations may be due to differing images in subsequent editions; the 1631 Mikrokosmographia title page is much more intricate but still includes the two figures. The female appears softer but retains her previous posture and form, while the male undergoes more significant changes; although he remains veined and inexplicably one-armed, his veining is less detailed (appearing more stylistic and less scientific), he is turned to face the center of the page, and a conveniently placed lily grows to cover his more potentially offensive parts. This may have appeased Crooke’s more prudish readers, but there is an odd juxtaposition in revealing the man’s circulatory system while veiling his external genitalia.

A photocopy of the reproduction of the engraved 1631 title page provided by O’Malley in his Bulletin of the History of Medicine article and credited to the “Wellcome Trustees”; the image no doubt originates from a copy held by the Wellcome Trust in England.

Although there appears to be little in the image to verify that this is, indeed, a pregnant woman (as O’Malley notes), the same illustration does appear in the volume’s Book Four, “Of the naturall parts belonging to Generation,” where it is labeled: “Table x. sheweth the portrature of a woman great with child whose wombe is bared and the Kel taken away, that the stomacke, the guttes and the wombe might bee better seene” (V6v). According to the OED, “kel” is more commonly spelled “kell” and, given this context, would refer to “the fatty membrane investing the intestines”; this is what later becomes the word “caul” (although the alternate spelling “calle” also appears as early as 1382). In any case, this female figure is certainly an excellent example of the “self-demonstrating” anatomy subject Jonathan Sawday describes in The Body Emblazoned (113), as she coldly offers her best-kept secrets to the reader’s gaze.

* As always, for complete bibliographic information on the sources used in this entry, see Further Reading


“The immense shade of its mother”

The title page of the Crooke book includes the following passage, in Latin:

 —————————Etiam Parnassia Laurus

Parua, subingentimatris se subijcit umbra.

Because I am totally Latin-illiterate (a problem, I know; see “In the beginning“), until I learn the language I am forced to rely on the translations of others. Although elsewhere in the book where Crooke quotes passages in Latin he will frequently provide an English translation, he has not done so here. The lines are from Virgil’s Georgics, specifically lines 18-19 of Book II. My copy is the Oxford World’s Classics edition, translated by C. Day Lewis (Oxford UP, 2009). According to Lewis, the lines read:

                                                 [. . .] the Parnassian bay-tree also,

When tiny, shelters beneath the immense shade of its mother.

Obviously, Crooke is not the only person quoting Virgil in the 17th century, and I look forward to reading more about the role of Virgil’s writings in seventeenth-century print culture. But aside from the obvious appeal of including a quote from a popular source, Crooke is saying something about his own text through the image conveyed by the precise lines he chooses to include.

Crooke pays homage to the debt he owes his sources through the metaphor of the bay laurel trees. Laurus nobilis reproduces by way of flowers and berries; the seeds can be dispersed when the latter are eaten by birds or, logically, when the berries simply fall from the tree to the ground below, so the image of the sapling in the shadow of the “parent” tree is not unrealistic. Native to the Mediterranean, the trees’ location on the slopes of Mount Parnassus is also literally believable, although the mountain’s association with literature undoubtedly plays a role in its inclusion as well, for both Virgil and Crooke. There is certainly something humorously ironic about the depiction of Mikrokosmographia as a “tiny” tree when the volume weighs in at over 1,000 folio-sized pages, but the correlation of the amount of knowledge conveyed in his book to the much larger volume of existing human knowledge about his subject may have been accurate in Crooke’s eyes. The relationship between the book as a physical object and any tree seems almost cliché, even if laurels in particular aren’t used in paper-making. The classical associations the laurel does have are also obviously desirable to Crooke’s aims. The bay laurel’s common use in cooking may initially seem a more awkward aspect of the comparison, but Crooke himself will offer up his text as a “Banquet” he has “Cooked” for his audience within the first few lines of his “Praeface to the Chyrurgeons.”

But the parental relationship established by the use of Virgil’s metaphor is particularly important. In my mind there is little doubt that Crooke was apprehensive about the reception of his work, and not just because of its attempted suppression. His preface (which, believe it or not, we will reach very shortly) is a great deal concerned with how his audience should receive Crooke’s book and the role he intended it to have in the English medical community. It’s certainly true that his sources (Paré, Bauhin, and Du Laurens, among others) provide the bulk of the anatomy information, so that Crooke is making no original scientific contributions to that field. But by portraying his contribution as the child or offspring of those sources, Crooke both establishes and legitimizes a legacy for his work. Calling Mikrokosmographia the child of its predecessors not only clarifies the book’s relationship to its sources but also validates its heavy resemblance to them.

There’s one other word here, though, that I’m particularly interested in, but this is where my lack of Latin becomes more problematic. Matris is easy to identify, but I’m not sure which of the Latin verbs is the source for the translation “shelters.” From exploring various other translations of Virgil accessed online (I’m nowhere near a university library during this summer, unfortunately), I’m under the impression that alternate interpretations might involve more active English verbs, which I see as a significant difference. It is one thing for Crooke’s book to “shelter” under its predecessors; it’s quite another for it to “grow” or even “spring up.” I do suspect that the “subingentimatris” that appears without any spaces ought to be broken out into multiple words; my uneducated guess is “sub ingenti matris.” But if any of my readers can help me out on this, I’d be grateful.


Moving on down…

. . . the title page, that is.

I continue to be surprised by the tangents this project takes me on, but then I have to remember that was part of my goal in creating this blog. My current knowledge base is incredibly limited, so exploring the various issues that arise in the Crooke book gives me the opportunity to read further and learn more about aspects of seventeenth century England I would never have thought to explore. I have a lot more research to do before I can offer any real insight on the true nature of the relationship between Crooke and James I, so I’m going to continue that work behind the scenes and keep moving with the book here.

Oh, but look! That’s easier said than done. The next line on the title page reads:

Published by the Kings Majesties especiall Direction and Warrant according to the first integrity, as it was originally written by the AUTHOR.

As I’ve mentioned, we’ll come back to Crooke and the king. But I believe that the second part of this sentence – “according to the first integrity, as it was originally written by the AUTHOR” – refers to another significant event related to Mikrokosmographia: the attempted suppression of its publication.

C. D. O’Malley explains, “Although the Microcosmographia bears imprint of 1615 and Crooke’s preface is dated ‘last of May’ of that year, parts of the work had been printed and were in circulation as early as November 1614″ (7).* The preview caused consternation among two groups, one religious and one professional. John King, Bishop of London, objected to both the text and illustrations of the sections devoted to human reproduction, particularly the elucidation regarding the female reproductive system, on grounds of indecency. He appealed to the College of Physicians, who had their own objections to the use of the English vernacular being used to disseminate knowledge they considered part of their professional domain. O’Malley writes,

The result was a decision that the President of the College, Sir William Paddy, and one of the Censors, Dr. Edward Lister, should wait upon the Bishop of London to propose that the Microcosmographia not be published at all and that some compensation be awarded the publisher for the costs he had endured; or, at the very least, book four [“Of the natural parts belonging to generation”] be deleted. (8)

Called before the College, Crooke took a month to make an appearance and then apparently refused to accede, as the College next tried to intimidate his publisher and the President threatened to burn all copies of the book he could get his hands on. In a final effort to induce the cooperation of the author and publisher, the College delegated two of its fellows to emend the offensive portions, but with no greater success, and finally the book was printed in its original form, “according to the first integrity, as it was originally written by the AUTHOR.” I find it intriguing that after all this righteous indignation and furious threatening, there appears to have been no real negative consequences to Crooke’s blatant defiance – aside from its cooling affect on his relationship with the College of Physicians, which was none too warm to begin with. This relationship, like that of Crooke to James I, is another complicated one I need to research further before I can offer any greater insight.

* For complete bibliographic information on this source, see “Further Reading


A breadcrumb trail

As I explored in my last post, Crooke claims to have been “Physitian to His Majestie” James I on the title page of all but (what I believe to be) the earliest printings of Mikrokosmographia, in editions reaching from the earliest in 1615 to the last in 1651.

I explored my sources on Crooke for commentary on this issue. As I’ve mentioned before, Crooke’s biography has not been the subject of much study to date. Most scholars who cite his text as a representation of seventeenth-century anatomy knowledge in England are, understandably, not much concerned with the finer points of his life story. My favorite one-sentence summation of Crooke’s identity comes from Elizabeth D. Harvey, who calls him “Helkiah Crooke, seventeenth-century physician and promoter of the dissemination of medical knowledge into the vernacular” (295-96).* This is certainly accurate, but whether Crooke really was personal physician to James I has little or no bearing on that. Jonathan Sawday mentions the matter in passing when he introduces “the anatomist and physician to James I, Helkiah Crooke” (110). Elizabeth Lane Furdell observes, “Although Crooke described himself as ‘Physitian to His Maiestie, and his Highnesse Professor in Anatomy and Chyrurgery,’ the Fellows in the College of Physicians did not approve of his book” (52); this brings up another interesting issue I plan to explore in this blog, but rather elides the question of whether Crooke’s claim was legitimate or not.

The authors specifically interested in Crooke’s biography have slightly more to offer, but not much, in part because they are so few in number. The most recent of these is William Birken’s entry on Crooke in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2010); Birken mentions “Crooke had a strong[…] ally in James I” and “the continuing support of James I,” but doesn’t take a clear stance on the issue (or, indeed, even directly mention it).  Edward O’Donoghue, chronicler of Bethlehem Hospital where Crooke was keeper from 1619-1635, wrote the following in 1914:

Hilkiah [sic] Crooke was a Suffolk man of parts and learning, and, after studying at Cambridge and Leyden, was appointed in 1604 physician to James I. In the next year he wrote a book on anatomy (“Mikrokosmographia”), which he dedicated to his royal patron. (157)

The only source O’Donoghue credits for this passage is a 1631 copy of Mikrokosmographia. It is clear he must be somewhat confused, for although portions of Crooke’s text were in circulation in 1614, it was first published in 1615 – ten years after O’Donoghue’s timeline. Other idiosyncrasies make O’Donoghue’s reliability dubious. More promising is C. D. O’Malley’s 1968 article in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, which, if my research has been thorough, appears to be the only source that clearly denounces Crooke’s claim. O’Malley writes, “[Crooke] became attached to the royal medical service, but certainly not, as it is sometimes said, as one of the king’s personal physicians” (3). He provides some insight into his reasoning, explaining the fact that Crooke sought election as a Candidate of the College of Physicians in 1610 “is indication that he was not one of the king’s personal physicians, since they with royal support passed directly to the Fellowship” (3-4). This certainly makes sense to me, but I have to admit that when I went back and took this closer look, I was surprised to realize that O’Malley was the only clear voice in this camp; as you’ll note from previous posts, this is the side I stand with.

*For full bibliographic information on all sources used in this post, see Further Reading