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 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“
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