As it turns out, I was lucky enough to be awarded a University of Iowa Graduate College T. Anne Cleary International Dissertation Research Award, which enabled me to take a two-and-a-half week trip to England to look at copies of Crooke’s books, along with some other things. I’ve just been back a week.
This was an intense research trip. I saw a library per day–sometimes more. I visited London, Cambridge, and Oxford. And I viewed every copy of Crooke on record in those locations: 34 copies of Mikrokosmographia and 13 copies of Somatographia Anthropine.
This bibliographic research was crucial to my dissertation work. But perhaps even more vital were the manuscripts I saw, which included Crooke’s 13 theses on anatomy from the University of Leiden, held at the Royal Society of Medicine; the Annals of the College of Physicians, with their many, many references to Crooke at varying stages of his career; and the Sloane Manuscripts at the British Library, which record printer William Jaggard’s treatment for syphilis (perhaps at the hands of Crooke himself) and several quotations from/references to Mikrokosmographia.
The trip was a pivotal event in the course of my PhD degree. It validated for me the work I am undertaking in my dissertation as well as reinvigorating my enthusiasm. Although the research I completed does not hardly represent a comprehensive survey of Crooke’s anatomy, it is a sizeable step in that direction. There were also a couple of surprises that hadn’t been on the agenda, including not one but two amazing hand-colored copies I had no idea existed. I waited until after I’d visited all the libraries to counted up the individual copies I had actually seen, and it made for a nice surprise as well as a real feeling of accomplishment. I look forward to returning to England someday to spend more time with Crooke!
I have been looking up copies of Mikrokosmographia located in London and Oxbridge in preparation to apply for funding to enable a dissertation research trip late this summer/early fall.
My starting place is the English Short Title Catalogue online. Although the lists of copies provided there are notoriously unreliable, it gives me a good idea of where to go looking, including places I would otherwise never identify as a possible location for a library, much less a copy of Crooke’s book. I then visit the corresponding online library catalogs to perform searches for copies of any edition or issue of Mikrokosmographia or Somatographia Anthropine, the epitome. I very much enjoy this virtual detective work, although it tests the limits of my technological skills and proves the vagaries of various online cataloging systems and practices. It also makes me incredibly anxious to complete the investigation, which absolutely requires a physical trip to the archives.
One particularly tantalizing tidbit I uncovered is a copy of Mikro at the University of Cambridge. I should say, first of all, that there appear to be nine Crooke books at Cambridge total:
- First edition
- 1615 issue: 2 copies
- 1618 issue: 2 copies
- Second edition
- 1631: 3 copies
- First edition
- Somatographia Anthropine
- First edition
- 1616: 1 copy
- Second edition
- 1634: 1 copy
- First edition
It is also little surprise to find such a plethora of Crooke at Cambridge, as it is his Alma Mater; at age fifteen he matriculated as a sizar, earning his B.A. with John Bois at St. John’s College in 1596. After studying medicine for a time in Leiden, he returned to Cambridge and earned his medical degree in 1604.
Although the copies of Crooke’s books are scattered around the University, there is some online documentation of the one owned by Crooke’s own college, St. John’s. It is a 1618 Mikrokosmographia (third issue of the first edition). The volume–donated by Hugh Gatty, another St. John’s alum–features a contemporary binding stamped in gilt with the coat of arms of its original owner: Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford (1593-1641), and, you guessed it, also a graduate of St. John’s. Images of the binding and Strafford’s signature inside the front board of the book as well as more info about Wentworth can be found on the St. John’s College website.
I’m very much hoping that the funding comes through and I am able to complete this research. I’ve located over 30 copies to see between Oxford, Cambridge, and multiple London locations including the British Library, the Wellcome Institute, the Royal College of Surgeons, and the Royal College of Physicians. There are several other potential copies whose existence and location have been less possible to verify online. In addition to copies of Crooke’s books, I hope to view the Sloane Manuscripts that contain mentions of him, the Annals of the Royal College of Physicians in which he appears multiple times, and the manuscript copy of Crooke’s Leiden thesis at the Royal Society of Medicine.
Today I spent some time reading and revisiting the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entries for all the people I could find related to Helkiah Crooke’s early life. There are entries for:
- Thomas Crooke, Helkiah’s father
- Samuel Crooke, Helkiah’s older brother
- Stephen Egerton, Helkiah’s brother-in-law
- John Bois, Helkiah’s tutor at Cambridge
In addition to a few amusing anecdotes, I was able to piece together some interesting information about the Crooke family. One thing I hadn’t previously realized is that there were nine siblings in all! From eldest to youngest, the four older children were Sara, Thomas, Samuel, and Helkiah. The five younger were two boys and three girls—John, Richard, Rachel, Anne, and Elizabeth—who were all still minors at the time of their father’s death in 1598.
I looked to the entry for Helkiah’s father, Thomas Crooke, hoping to find the name of Helkiah’s mother. In her husband’s will, she is identified as “Samuell my wief.” Apparently Helkiah’s older brother Samuel had the rare distinction of being named after his mother. I haven’t yet come across any other women named Samuel in the early modern period (or any other), but I’m keeping an eye out.
Interestingly (if not particularly usefully), I also discovered that, by marriage, twice-removed, Helkiah has a distant connection to John Winthrop, governor of Massachusetts. Helkiah’s older sister, Sara, married Stephen Egerton; Egerton’s younger sister Anne had a daughter, Margaret, who married Winthrop in 1618.
Helkiah’s relationship to Egerton, a puritan preacher, is far more consequential for other reasons, however. Egerton and his associate Robert Dexter gave Helkiah his first chance to appear in print. The two men were undertaking a collected edition of the works of Richard Greenham (he has his own ODNB entry), a beloved puritan clergyman who had recently died. Helkiah apparently helped with the volume’s editing and wrote an introduction and some verses that appear in its opening pages. The book, Paramthion: Two Treatises of the Comforting of an Afflicted Conscience, was published in 1598 and can be found on EEBO, complete with the portions Crooke authored.
It was not only Helkiah’s brother-in-law and father who were clergymen, however. His older brother Samuel also entered the church. Although the two men lived very different lives, I can see parallels between them. The brothers were born only a year apart, and I find it hard not to believe that they would have been close growing up. Both brothers attended Cambridge. Like his younger brother Helkiah, who at times struggled with his governing professional body (the College of Physicians), Samuel encountered complaints from the church courts. The records of both institutions show that the brothers were equally vociferous defendants of their own actions. Both men, in the course of their careers, became published authors of some fame. Ultimately, however, time was kinder to the memory of Samuel Crooke, who passed away one year after his younger brother. Although Helkiah died relatively poor and friendless, Samuel’s funeral was attended by “many hundreds,” far more than the church could hold.
On a lighter note, the entry on Helkiah’s tutor John Bois provides an amusing anecdote. Bois was a Greek scholar who is now best remembered for his work on the King James Bible, which he helped translate and annotate. Crooke initially studied with Bois for his BA degree at Cambridge, but after a brief stint at the University of Leiden, Crooke returned to England to earn his MD. Back at Cambridge, Crooke resumed his study of medicine with Bois, who had originally “thought of studying medicine but, imagining he had every disease of which he read, gave it up” in favor of Greek; Bois’s biographer amusingly describes the scholar’s attitude toward his own health as “a fetish” (David Norton, ODNB). Surely, if nothing else, Crooke’s early medical training was fastidious.
Together, along with many others we’ve lost to history, these people shaped and influenced the young physician who would become the author of Mikrokosmographia. I am grateful to have the invaluable resource of the ODNB available to shed light on some of the lesser-known connections that played important roles in Crooke’s early life.
As promised, the full version of the paper I recently presented at the Society for Textual Scholarship conference is linked below. I’ve revised it slightly, both in response to the wonderful feedback I received at the conference and to make it more readable, as it was originally intended to be heard. Please forgive the clunky documentation; I believe it is complete, but, as so often happens with conference papers, it is rather ungraceful.
Although I don’t have immediate plans for this piece, questions of censorship will certainly continue to be a part of my general inquiry into Crooke’s book, and I welcome further insights/questions, etc. As soon as I find time, I’ll be following up on Whitney Trettien‘s excellent suggestion to take a look at some anatomical flapbooks, such as the Hardin Library’s Johann Remmelin’s Catoptrum microcosmicum (1619) here at the University of Iowa that Whitney has blogged about.
My upcoming paper for the Society for Textual Scholarship conference meeting in Chicago, March 6-8, has afforded me the opportunity to return to one of the most intriguing mysteries surrounding Mikrokosmographia and, in doing so, I’ve be able to clarify some crucial information about editions and issues of this book. To summarize the issue I’m pursuing, let me quote from my abstract:
In 1612, William Jaggard, who would later print the first folio of Shakespeare’s works, required medical treatment for syphilis. He was seen by London physician Helkiah Crooke, and although the treatment was apparently unsuccessful (Jaggard later went blind from his illness), the two men struck up an ongoing relationship. For some time Jaggard, whose father was a barber-surgeon, had been considering publishing a medical volume, and he decided to take on Crooke’s own anatomy project, Mikrokosmographia: A Description of the Body of Man, a compendium of continental anatomy knowledge that Crooke hoped would forefront the development of more advanced dissection practices in England. The first edition was published in 1615.
However, copies of Crooke’s manuscript were in circulation as early as the summer of 1614, as evidenced by the scandal it created; Crooke’s book included a full description of the female reproductive system, and it was written in the vernacular. The first fact raised the ire of the Bishop of London, the second the objections of the College of Physicians, of which Crooke was a member. The church found the illustrations and description of the female body immoral, while the physicians protested the dissemination of their specialized professional knowledge to a broad audience. To add insult to injury, Crooke dedicated his book to the city’s other group of medical professionals, the barber-surgeons. While the physicians were university-educated members of the upper class, the barber-surgeons trained by apprenticeship with little or no formal schooling.
The printing of the anatomy was a substantial project; Crooke writes in his “Praeface to the Chyrurgeons” that he had to limit the book’s size because, at just over 1,000 pages, it had grown “too chargeable for the printer.” It seems clear that both author and publisher had much to lose, and the protests regarding Mikrokosmographia were adamant. The church demanded that the College reign in its errant member; the College called for Crooke to appear before them, and when he failed to show, they in turn called for Jaggard; his wife appeared in the blind printer’s place. The College threatened that if the offending sections (Books Four and Five) were not removed from the book, they would burn all copies of the volume upon publication.
Despite all this, Crooke and Jaggard printed the book in its original form. Astonishingly, there were no repercussions.
What adds further intrigue to what turned out to be apparently empty threats from the Bishop of London and College of Physicians is that the second edition of Crooke’s book, first published in 1631 while Crooke was still alive and well but by a different publisher (as Jaggard had died in 1623), was censored to some extent. The main alteration I am focusing on is one of the offending illustrations, that of an anatomized woman’s torso, sans head, sans arms, sans legs… but not sans everything. In the first edition of Mikrokosmographia (printed 1615, 1616, and 1618), the illustration includes detailed depiction of the vaginal cleft. In the second edition (printed 1631 and 1651), the anatomical detail in that area of the woodblock has been obliterated.
I first reported on this difference back in October 2012 when I first viewed a later copy at the University of Washington while at a conference in Seattle. I have since been able to view four additional copies of the book at the University of Chicago: a 1615, 1616, 1641, and 1651 (in addition to a 1634 copy of Alexander Read’s cross-indexed 8vo epitome). Mr. Ronald Sims of the Galter Health Sciences Library at Northwestern University kindly inspected their 1618 and 1631 copies for me yesterday. (I’m headed to Madison to visit special collections at the University of Wisconsin tomorrow to see their 1631 and 1651 copies.)
All of this observation has enabled me to confirm what I suspected from EEBO images—that the first edition of the book, the three issues of which were all printed by William Jaggard, features the illustration in its fully detailed form, while the second and third editions, printed by Richard Cotes, reflect the alteration to the woodblock.
Interestingly, although Jaggard both printed and sold the first edition, the second edition was printed by Cotes but sold by Michael Sparke. The Oxford DNB notes, “Sparke’s life and work were characterized by his maniacal devotion to the protestant religion.” Sparke’s relationship to women was also fraught: He was married twice, and although when he died he left a significant portion of his money to his second wife, he requested burial beside his first; he also banned all women, save his daughters and granddaughters, from his funeral. I intend to investigate whether Sparke’s role in the production of the second edition may have influenced the decision to the alter the image in question.
In addition to this possible influence from the second edition’s seller, I’m also conducting further research into print censorship in early modern England. We all know that history doesn’t follow a neat cause-and-effect trajectory; unfortunately, the human race does not learn from its mistakes and progress steadily forward, constantly improving. Although the publication of the first edition of Mikrokosmographia in its original form represented a step forward as the first medical description of the female reproductive system published in the English vernacular, any progress made was subtly undercut by the alterations made to this illustration in the second edition. I look forward to reading more about the social, personal, religious, and political forces that influenced this outcome.
One of my recent challenges with this blog has been an editorial one. How do I determine what information belongs?
When I first conceived of this project, the intention was simply to go through and create a modernized version of Crooke’s text. I didn’t intend to post every word, but a paragraph or two here and there that represented the really interesting parts, along with some interpretation/insights. In looking back over my posts so far, I realize that has become a rather small part of what I’ve done.
This is, I think, because that narrow focus is only a small part of what I’m pursuing with Crooke outside of the blog. He is, after all, a far larger character than just “author of Mikrokosmographia,” and my interest in him has led me to far broader intellectual pursuits. I still see the modernized version of the anatomy text as an important project, and one I want to continue. But there’s a lot of exciting related stuff happening outside of that text, too – stuff that (it seems to me, anyway) someone interested in the text of the anatomy book might also find interesting. And sharing it here has provided a convenient way of documenting and indexing those discoveries.
I’ve realized this situation reflects the tension in my own scholarly work between close attention to the text and the book as a material object on one side and broader historical, social, and theoretical contexts on the other. I see too many links between these things to accept them as mutually exclusive. And I’m too interested in them both to neglect either one completely. But I have yet to identify a clear way of balancing them together—or maybe not just balancing, but joining. Perhaps continuing my multivalent blogging will help with that.
In hope that it will, I’d like to share a short paper I recently wrote that only very briefly mentions Crooke. The assignment was a close reading of limited length, and so that is what I have here, but I think there may be potential for expansion. As I mentioned previously, I’ve been reading Crooke’s better-known contemporary William Harvey for this class, and his De motu cordis (or, at least, one paragraph of it) is the focus of this piece. That book recounts the discovery of the circulation of the blood, and I explore a remarkable moment in which Harvey does three very interesting things: 1) Experiments on an animal that allows anatomy without dissection, 2) Philosophically ponders the definition of life upon observation of a “disappearing” heart, and 3) Shares his experiments with friends. I welcome feedback/comments/questions (although I have no immediate plans for revision/expansion).
The book I mentioned at the end of my last post, Body of Work: Meditations on Mortality from the Human Anatomy Lab by Christine Montross (2007), did prove an enjoyable read. As a grad student in English lit, I do a lot of reading, but far too little of it is honestly “enjoyable.” (Note: I am not complaining about reading, nor am I saying I dislike scholarly reading; I’m simply identifying a different type of reading.) This particular book did not mention Crooke, or, indeed, have much to say about the specific areas my own research currently focuses on. Still, it helped remind me why I’m interested in these areas; it was, in a very literal way, refreshing. I was sad when I reached the end and could no longer savor my little bits of “fun” reading each day. I need to look for something to follow it, something equally interesting and insightful but still light.
However, the Montross book did lead me back to Crooke in a new and exciting way by a rather unusual route. I had a break one Friday that was perfect for a bit of reading, and just as I was mentally bemoaning the fact that I’d finished Body of Work, I realized I was walking past the university library. Usually when I go into the library for a book, I have a call number ready in my hand, but this time, looking for something “fun,” I was determined to just walk into the stacks and find something that looked good; if it didn’t pan out, I’d simply bring it back.
I am a huge promoter of browsing the stacks at the library to find sources; this is why I go in with a list of three books to pull off the shelves and walk out with a stack of eleven. There is, of course, a method to the call number madness. (I think closed stacks are an absolute tragedy.) However, I have more than once discovered a section of great value to me when something simply caught my eye as I walked by. This time, just looking for anything, I happened across the history of medicine section. How had I not been there before?
As a narrative of my browsing is probably not of particular interest to anyone, I’ll cut to the chase. I found a fabulous book: Medical Conflicts in Early Modern London: Patronage, Physicians, and Irregular Practitioners, 1550-1641 by Margaret Pelling, published in 2003. Pelling is at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine at Oxford, where she formerly worked with Charles Webster (he of From Paracelsus to Newton fame, for those of you familiar). As you might guess, Crooke falls handily into the category of “irregular practitioners,” and not only does Pelling mention him specifically multiple times (and provide some new information on him), but this book provides me with a new way of thinking about Crooke and his cohort and, I think, possibly . . . a dissertation idea.
Pelling explains that the College of Physicians of London was fairly new in Crooke’s time, having been founded only in 1518, and, simply put, it had control issues.
[T]he College had from the outset the task and intention of controlling all practitioners of physic in the capital, as well as the supervision of what it regarded as the subordinate institutions regulating the medical art. The College’s forms of control were primarily exclusionary and punitive: any practitioner of physic active inside a 7-mile radius in London was defined as illicit unless he (women were not eligible) had been licensed by the College, and illicit practice was punishable by fines and imprisonment. (Pelling 1)
The reality, of course, was that this prohibition meant that a sizeable group of various sorts of medical practitioners were left on the “periphery.” Many of those individuals are, unfortunately but inevitably, lost to history. While we know a good deal about the properly licensed physicians documented by the College’s official records, we know less about the rule-breakers; however, those same College records do provide some information on the rule-breakers they caught, punished, and/or attempted to thwart. Pelling describes the fringe group on which she focuses as “the 714 different medical practitioners—the ‘irregulars’—to whom the Annals or minutes of the College give us access during the ninety years between October 1550 and September 1640” (3-4). Crooke, interestingly, falls into both groups; while he did eventually become a “proper” member of the College, he also frequently found himself at odds with them.
In her study of the London physicians, Pelling employs prosopography, a term that was new to me; according to the OED, it refers to “A study or description of an individual’s life, career, etc.; esp. a collection of such studies focusing on the public careers and relationships of a group in a particular place and period; a collective biography.” Interestingly, one of the conclusions Pelling makes after studying “the irregulars” as a group is that they construe a “middling sort” of class in their society.
As is plain to see, the strength of the medical hegemony in modern western society has had the predictable effect of breeding its polar opposite; extremes of faith and cynicism flourish accordingly, and require histories to match. In these histories we have physicians and quacks, quacks and physicians, with variants which see pre-modern physicians and quacks as one and the same. Regrettably, some forms of cultural history may inadvertently reinforce this vicious circle, by denying medicine a material existence, and defining it instead as primarily performance, either in person or in print. However great their value, interpretations which avoid materiality are likely to do little to restore the ‘excluded middle’ which has been created by medicine’s largely successful attempt to separate itself from other crafts and trades, primarily but not exclusively at the artisanal level. As well as affecting our impressions of medicine itself, as strictly defined, this separation has also involved areas such as art, music gastronomy, and theatre. These activities were later brought back into the self-image of the accomplished, polymathic practitioner, once they were purged of their connection with the artisanal crafts and could be made to look cultivated (cultural) or artistic. (Pelling 12-13)
Pelling even ponders whether the physicians may form a sort of middle class in early modern London:
Were the collegiate physicians—with their dependency on decorum, their stress on what was later called the meritocratic intellect, their sensitivity about social privilege, their faith in rational negotiation, their appeal to legislation, and, above all, their definitive emphasis on (but not involvement in) education—providing a template for middle-class values in many respects ahead of their time? (Pelling 15)
After merely reading Pelling’s introduction (and the sections about Crooke, of course), I was really excited. This is not only a whole new way of thinking about Crooke; it’s a whole new way in which he matters. And, although I have to do more research, I think I may have a way here to turn my love of Crooke into a feasible dissertation project. Pelling, as a historian, bases her research solely on official historical records. As a student of literature, I can incorporate creative representations of physicians into the equation; I can consider what Pelling’s hypotheses can tell us about the plays, poems, and stories of early modern London, and what that literature can tell us about Pelling’s hypotheses.
BUT—now for the good stuff. Here’s a list of the intriguing new (to me, anyway) information Pelling offers on Crooke:
1) He “had first-hand experience of plague in London” (54).
2) The instance in which Jaggard’s wife was called before the College to defend her husband’s decision to print Crooke’s book in its entirety (remember, the Bishop of London and the College of Physicians tried to suppress the portions on the female reproductive system) was not unique, or simply a result of Jaggard’s syphilitic blindness; “Culturally, it might have been thought that the most effective complainant on behalf of a husband was his wife, just as clemency could be gained for irregulars by the pleadings of their wives” (Pelling 124).
3) Helkiah name has variously been recorded Elias, Helkiach, Hilkiah, and Hilkias; variants of his last name include Crook, Croke, Cruyck, and the latinate Crocus.
4) “In the 1610s he [Crooke] appears to have had a shop in which he employed Thomas Lord, first as his servant and then as his ‘private apothecary'” (Pelling 127 n.).
5) Crooke claimed, in a letter to James I, “that they [the College of Physicians] themselves in public dissections exhibited the human body of either sex to be seen and touched and that they cut up indecent parts and explained each separately in the vernacular” (Pelling 222).
6) Pelling finds Crooke’s mastery of Latin impressive; she notes an instance in which “Crooke abased himself by letter (in Latin) [in an attempt to appease the College after an offense] even more successfully [than another irregular], being able to put his own criticisms across at the same time”; in a note, she follows, “Crooke’s letter is an excellent (calculated) example of humanist Latin as ‘adulation’s language'” (278).
I am particularly excited about Crooke’s shop and “private apothecary”—this is something I’ll definitely be pursuing with further research.