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).


34 Copies of Crooke

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!

Crooke at Cambridge

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:

  • Mikrokosmographia
    • First edition
      • 1615 issue: 2 copies
      • 1618 issue: 2 copies
    • Second edition
      • 1631: 3 copies
  • Somatographia Anthropine
    • First edition
      • 1616: 1 copy
    • Second edition
      • 1634: 1 copy

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.

The Irregulars; or, an Adventure in Prosopography

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.