Crooke’s Woodcuts: Source and Use

The woodcut images that illustrate Mikrokosmographia were commissioned for the impressive folio anatomy manual, and I have blogged previously about their most notable subsequent use, in Jaggard’s epitome Somatographia anthropine. However, with the help of a 1937 bibliography, I have identified another medical book in which the woodcuts were used. I also recently identified what I believe to be the single source that served as the model for almost all of the woodcuts in Mikro.

Historians, bibliographers, and catalogers have regularly noted that Crooke’s illustrations are not original, suggesting a wide range of attributions, and Crooke himself identifies a handful of different sources in his preface. Part of the difficulty in pinning down a specific origin for any given image is the way that early modern medical illustrations copied and imitated each other in a vastly confusing manner; Sachiko Kusukawa’s book Picturing the Book of Nature (UChicago, 2012) provides excellent information on this topic. Although I discuss my reasoning at greater length in my current research project, I want to share here my claim that Caspar Bauhin’s Theatrum Anatomicum published in Frankfurt in 1605 was the immediate source used as the model for nearly all of Mikrokosmographia‘s woodcuts. Bauhin’s engraved illustrations are in turn copied from other sources (including, of course, Vesalius), but in terms of understanding the transmission of medical knowledge from continental Europe into vernacular English sources, knowing the immediate origin of the majority of Crooke’s illustrations is extremely helpful. (A very few of Crooke’s woodcuts, such as the illustration of surgical tools on page 27 of the first edition, do not have identifiable predecessors in Bauhin.)

Bauhin is one of the names mentioned by many, including Crooke himself, as “a” source for Mikrokosmographia‘s illustrations, but only one other place I have found identifies Bauhin as the primary source. Interestingly, that other place is another early modern medical book that used the same woodcuts. When William Jaggard’s son Isaac died in 1627, Thomas and Richard Cotes received rights to their printing business, including the woodcuts created for Mikrokosmographia. Thomas Cotes decided to use them, along with others, to illustrate The Workes of that famous Chirurgion Ambrose Parey, printed in 1634. The translation of Paré’s complete works (from the Latin, which was in turn a translation of the original French) had been completed by an apothecary named Thomas Johnson. In his prefatory letter “To The Reader,” Johnson notes:

The figures in the Anatomy are not the same used by my Author (whose were according to those of Vesalius) but according to those of Bauhine, which were used in the worke of Dr. Crooke; and these indeed are the better and more complete.

The section of Paré’s works devoted to anatomy in the 1634 volume does indeed included many of the same woodcut illustrations used in Mikrokosmographia and Somatographia anthropine, including the dissected female torso woodcut I wrote about previously, as noted above. Although I had already identified Bauhin as Crooke’s illustration source, I found the breadcrumb trail regarding the use of Crooke’s woodcuts in the Paré book, along with the bonus of the Bauhin reference, in A Bibliography of The Works of Ambroise Paré: Premier Chirurgien & Conseiller du Roy by Janet Doe (1937).


It Takes a Village to Raise a Crooke

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.

“Early Modern Practitioners” at Exeter

There’s a new website up for the exciting prosopographical project underway at the University of Exeter, “The Medical World of England, Wales and Ireland, c. 1500-1715.” The website is called Early Modern Practitioners and provides an overview of the project, sample data, a “practitioner of the month,” and more. Ultimately, this project will take the form of a database containing biographies of all the active medical practitioners during the time period and in the locations of the project’s title as well as a study of the data compiled which will be published as a major monograph.

This project will build in part on the work I’ve previously mentioned completed by Margaret Pelling. As someone with keen interest in this subject and who has conducted a considerable amount of research in this area, it is my opinion that this is work that very much needs to be done. Although there has been excellent and extensive work on the key players in this time period—think William Harvey—the truth is, there aren’t that many William Harveys. A lot of the big names in medicine (and related fields) are coming out of other parts of Europe; Great Britain is noticeably behind the continent in medical advancement (as well as most other areas) during the Renaissance.

But this doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a vibrant medical scene in England, Wales, and Ireland during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In fact, as the website explains:

The sheer numbers of people who practised medicine in some form or other during the medieval and early modern periods are overwhelming. Medical practitioners were, quite literally, everywhere. From ‘formal’ trained and licensed physicians across to the village blacksmith who might perform a secondary role as tooth-drawer, the types of practitioner are also legion. All of the terms below can be found in early modern sources as descriptive terms for practitioners, including their various derivatives and alternative spellings) and this list is by no means exhaustive.

Physic (Phisic, Physick, Phisique, Fisick(e)), Physician, Doctor (of medicine), licentiate, Practicer, Practitioner, Apothecary (pothecary, poticary), Surgeon, Chirurgeon (Chirurgion), Barber, Barber-Surgeon, Mounteban(c)k, Druggist, Chemist, Midwife, Peruke-maker.

This legion of individuals is indeed a rich cross-section of early modern culture, and it will be vastly interesting to see what insights this project develops.

Although I certainly hope that Crooke will be a part of this database, in truth he falls somewhere between this vast majority of medical practitioners and those well-known names like Harvey. Although not widely considered a major contributor to his field, and certainly not a readily recognizable name for most people, Crooke has in fact received much more attention than many of his contemporary physicians, as William Birken has reminded me. But it may be precisely because of this in-between role that he maintains—his part as an “irregular,” as Pelling calls this group—that Crooke may be particularly situated to lend helpful insight to some of the questions raised by this project and related inquiries.

Peregrinations: Hearts and Harvey

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 Beginning of Life”: Seeing and Being in William Harvey’s De motu cordis