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).


Ustion & Adduction

In my capacity as a grader, I’ve been reading a lot (and I do mean a lot) of undergrad close readings lately. I feel a little bit stuck in close-reading mode right now, so I’m going to look rather closely at a few more bits from Crooke’s “Praeface to the Chyrurgeons.”

Afterward I descend to the operations in particular, as to Division, Simple & Compound; Simple in Section & Ustion; Compound with Extraction and Extirpation. To Junction also, Simple and Compound, Simple in Adduction, Adaptation, and the way how to Conteine them so fitted together.

To begin with, there were some new vocabulary words for me in these sentences. According to the OED (I’ve underlined the definitions I think closest to Crooke’s use of these words):

Ustion, n. Obs. 1. The act of burning, or fact of being burnt. 2. a. The act of searing; cauterization. b. A place or surface presenting the appearance of being seared or cauterized. 3. fig. Concupiscence; libidinous desire. rare. [Instances of use provided range in date from 1567-1802.]

Extirpation, n. The action of extirpating. 1. The clearing (ground) of trees, etc. Obs. 2. a. The action of rooting up trees or weeds; total destruction. b. Surg. The operation of removing, by excision or the application of caustics, anything having an inward growth. 3. The action of extirpating or rooting out; extermination: a. of a nation, family, sect, species, etc. b. of an immaterial thing, e.g. heresy, a religion, vice, etc.

Adduction, n.1 1. a. The action or process of conveying something, esp. toward another; the fact of being so conveyed. Now rare. b. The action of moving towards something. Obs. rare. c. In the writings of medieval and Renaissance theologians, esp. Duns Scotus: the action or process by which Christ’s body is brought into the bread during the Eucharist; an instance of this. hist. in later use. 2. Anat. and Zool. The action of bringing a part of the body toward the median plane or midline, or of bringing two parts together. Also: the condition of being adducted. 3. The bringing forward of facts or statements as evidence; an instance of this.

In the larger passage from which I’ve drawn these lines, Crooke describes the instructions he has included in his anatomy volume. He explains that first his reader must have “knowledge of the healthfull and sound constitution which is the rule of the rest”; he can then proceed to describe certain diseases “so farre as it necessarie a Chyrurgeon should know.” The barber-surgeons, of course, only need to be familiar with those diseases that might require manual manipulation of the body to heal; all other diseases are the territory of the physicians. Crooke proceeds, “In the next place I handle the Operations of Chyrurgery in generall, where you have all the Instruments of your Art”; he says he provides a catalog and description of the various tools the barber-surgeons might use.

Crooke’s use of the word “art” in reference to the practice of anatomy is one of the first things about his writing that caught my attention. For me, that term denotes a certain right-brained approach to the matter at hand; it implies creativity, flexibility, imagination. However, when I looked the word up in the OED, I was surprised to discover that the first definition of “art” is “skill; its display, application, or expression.” When I think of skill, I think of rigidity, discipline, repetition. Crooke, as a physician, is clearly trying to improve the barber-surgeons skills by providing them with an anatomy manual in the vernacular; however, the tension between the two groups, the physicians and the barber-surgeons, is constantly present in Crooke’s rhetoric. He alternately refers to “your Art” and “our Art.” I’ll have to keep a close eye on how this carries out in the rest of the volume, but in the preface at least it appears to me that Crooke uses “your Art” when he wants to instruct the barber-surgeons on the technical aspects of anatomy and “our Art” when he is writing about the philosophical aspects of anatomy practice. Although their specific professional roles may clearly delineate the physicians from the barber-surgeons, the ethical (“Philosophicall”) concerns both groups face may be one way of uniting them.

When Crooke “descend[s] to the operations in particular,” I think he uses “descend” in the sense of getting “down” to business. He has just described the various surgery tools, and now he is going to explain their proper use. One of the things to remember about this anatomy manual is that Crooke doesn’t just write about dissecting cadavers; he talks about the body as a whole, the body’s constituent parts, and how to heal and repair the living body. This book may have served as a manual for actual anatomies conducted in the barber-surgeons’ hall, but there’s plenty of other information that goes above and beyond that service included as well. To return to our vocab words above, “ustion,” “extirpation,” and “adduction,” as the OED definitions help illustrate, are all concerned with specific kinds of “operations” barber-surgeons would have conducted on their living patients (the poor souls—none of these sounds very pleasant).

Looking ahead: In the way of a bit of a preview, I’m getting ready to read a rather more recent piece of nonfiction prose: Body of Work: Meditations on Mortality from the Human Anatomy Lab by Christine Montross (2007). This semester I’m taking a Bioethics & Humanities seminar over at the medical school; I’m the only humanities student involved, but the med students have been very welcoming, and one lovely woman who was an English major as an undergraduate lent me this book when she heard about my anatomy interests. Here’s the blurb from the back of the book (categorized as “autobiography/personal memoir”):

Christine Montross was nervous as she waited outside the anatomy lab on her first day of medical school. But a strange thing happened when Montross met her cadaver. Instead of being disgusted by her, she found herself utterly fascinated—intrigued by the person the woman once was and humbled by the strange, unsettling beauty of the human form. They called her Eve.

The story of Montross and Eve is a tender and surprising examination of the mysteries of the human body, an eye-opening account of the history of cadaveric dissection, and a remarkable look at our relationship with both the living and the dead.

At the very least, I’m sure it will be an enjoyable read. My higher hopes are that it might help me step back from Crooke at look at some of the larger concepts that are of interest to me here so that I can adjust and refocus my larger aims and take another step closer to conceiving a workable dissertation project. If there’s anything that illuminates the Crooke book directly, I’ll blog about it here.

As it is a rule in Geometry

For this post I want to return to Crooke’s text, looking at a specific phrase in the second paragraph of “The Praeface to the Chyrurgeons.” The first part of this passage reads as follows:

In the next place shall follow a Discourse of the constitution of mans body, as he enjoyeth a perfect or apportioned health by a due Mixture of the principles whereof he consisteth; of the Temperament of each part arising from that mixture; of the Offices or Functions proceeding from that temperament, and such other things as will fall in with the same. For as it is a rule in Geometry, that Rectum est index sui & obliqui, That which is Right measureth both it selfe and that which is crooked; so in our Art, he that knowes what should bee the natural disposition of everie part will be best able to judge when Nature declineth from that integrity, and how far the declination is from the true and genuine constitution. This part indeede is Philosophicall, but I shall make it so plaine, if God will, that a very reasonable capacity shall be able to apprehend it.

The underlining is mine; Crooke’s mention of geometry caught my attention because it immediately brought to mind one of my favorite articles, “Lessons from Literature for the Historian of Science (and Vice Versa): Reflections on ‘Form'” by Henry S. Turner (currently of Rutgers), published in the journal Isis in 2010. When I first read Turner’s piece a year ago it helped me begin to sketch out what interdisciplinary work between literary studies and the history of science might and should look like. I’ve had difficulty tying my disparate interests together and focusing them into a conceivable project for graduate studies in an English department, and this article was quite helpful to me in articulating some of what I envisioned.

What made me think of Turner’s article when I subsequently re-read this line from Crooke is the specific use of the geometry metaphor. In this paragraph, Crooke describes the way he has constructed his anatomy; he attempts to explain its form. As part of Turner’s discussion of form, he notes

In my own work on early modern English drama and its debt to modes of prescientific thought, I sought to combine all four notions of form [stylistic, structural, material, and social] along with a fifth: mathematical notions of form that were typical of geometry in both its speculative and practical varieties. Geometry provides one of the oldest and most enduring ways of thinking about the problem of form (the geometrical “statement” is, in the end, purely a formal one); in the late sixteenth century, mathematical notions of form that were primarily structural, spatial, and quantitative began to compete with rhetorical notions of form that were primarily linguistic, stylistic, and qualitative, with the result that early modern writers began to develop new ideas of form for their poems and plays. (581)

Turner goes on to cite examples of early modern authors—Philip Sidney, Thomas Dekker, Ben Jonson—drawing on fields such as cartography and carpentry to help form their writing.

For modern readers, an anatomical text that references geometry might not be notable; in our contemporary mindset, math and science go hand in hand. But my sense of early modern medical practices does not jive with that. In this very passage (and extensively elsewhere), Crooke refers to anatomy as “our Art.” He and his fellow physicians were university trained, but the barber-surgeons Crooke addresses this preface to are apprenticed and unschooled. Crooke is trying to convey technical medical knowledge to a relatively illiterate (at least, by early modern standards) bunch. In order to be successful, he has to put that specialized information into a form they can process.

This is why I find Mikrokosmographia such fertile ground (don’t think about that metaphor too hard) for exploring rhetorical construction in the early modern period. I see plenty of evidence within the text to support the notion that Crooke is, above all else, trying to make his book accessible. I haven’t yet fully explored this, but my hypothesis is that he is heavily influenced by classical and contemporary creative writing in the construction of his protoscientific text. Sawday briefly notes this possibility in The Body Emblazoned, and Elizabeth Harvey wrote an article on Spenserian allegory in one part of Crooke’s text; I plan to build on their work for a conference paper I’ll be presenting at PAMLA in October. But this instance of geometry in “The Praeface to the Chyrurgeons,” interpreted via Turner, may be another piece of supporting evidence. Like Sidney, Dekker, and Jonson, and perhaps in imitation of them, Crooke draws on geometry to help give form to his text. As he explains, “This part indeede is Philosophicall, but I shall make it so plaine, if God will, that a very reasonable capacity shall be able to apprehend it”; by drawing on the tangible concept of geometry to give shape to the intangible philosophical aspects of his text, Crooke believes he will be able to convey his information even to those of “reasonable [and not exceptional] capacity,” the barber-surgeons.

Addendum – 9/8/12: As I may have mentioned, I was really, really tired when I wrote this post; Fridays after teaching may not be the best time to blog, as it turns out. Anyhow, I’m not going to fuss with it (muddled as it is), but I do want to clarify my main point: Crooke’s use of a geometry metaphor is unremarkable, but the fact that he’s using it specifically to describe the form of his text is, I think, significant.

I began with Anatomy

The title page of Mikrokosmographia is followed by an epistle to the king . . . which I look forward to translating once I learn Latin, but which we must skip for now. This is, obviously, not the only Latin in the book, but it is the only substantial portion of text presented in that language, a choice I will explore when Crooke addresses it (which he does within his first few pages).

Setting that aside, however, brings us (finally!) to the English-language content of the book, beginning with “The Praeface to the Chyrurgeons.” Crooke addresses his audience thus:

T O   T H E   W O R S H I P F U L L

Company of the Barber-Chyrurgeons, the

Maister, Wardens, Assistants, and Comminalty of the same;

HELKIAH CROOKE, Physitian and Professor

in Anatomy and Chirurgery to His MAJESTIE,

wisheth Happie and prosperous successe in


Crooke, of course, is not himself a member of the barber-surgeon’s company; he is a physician. In this time period, the  barber-surgeons and the physicians were two distinct groups with distinct professional roles. Barber-surgeons had little or no formal schooling and entered the profession by apprenticeship and joining the guild. Physicians entered their profession through college education and membership in the College of Physicians:

A small group of physicians led by the scholar Thomas Linacre petitioned King Henry VIII to establish the College in 1518. They wanted the power to grant licenses to those qualified to practice medicine and to punish unqualified practitioners and those engaging in malpractice.

As the founding charter decreed, the College would: “curb the audacity of those wicked men who shall profess medicine more for the sake of their avarice than from the assurance of any good conscience, whereby many inconveniences may ensue to the rude and credulous populace.” In 1523 an Act of Parliament extended the College’s licensing powers from London to the whole of England.

Linacre wanted to found an academic body for physicians rather than a trade guild of the kind which regulated surgeons and apothecaries. Physicians were seen as the educated elite of the medical world: a degree was required to gain a College’s license. Candidates for Fellowship underwent an oral examination to demonstrate that they were “groundedly learned” (classically educated) in addition to their medical knowledge.

From the start the College was involved in battles with other medical bodies in the struggle to control medical licensing in London. Until the 19th Century there were usually fewer than 60 College Fellows at any one time and under 100 licentiates. It is not surprising that the more numerous surgeons and apothecaries felt they had a strong mandate to treat the rapidly expanding population of London without restrictions from physicians. The College did not always grasp opportunities to lead the broader medical profession and critics saw it as a conservative and protectionist body. (

As this brief history from the Royal College of Physicians website hints, these two professional organizations were frequently at odds with each other, even though the nature of their work was closely related. Crooke recognizes the counterproductivity of this situation. Although he may have had additional motives (many of Crooke’s actions appear to have been taken in the primary interest of financial gain), Crooke presents his volume as a gesture of goodwill toward the barber-surgeons, an effort to aid them in improving their knowledge of their trade. His preface begins:

My Maisters and Worshipfull Friends. As from the first I intended this Labor unto your behoofe; so now having by Gods assistance brought it to an end, I offer it unto you as a token of my Love: Not that I doubt but there are some among you who as themselves stand in no neede of my helpe, so they are also able to have set out this Banquet with greater variety and to have Cooked it fitter for you as being better acquainted with your diet and appetites. But because it is now a long time since your Banister (that good old man) first presented you with a service of this kind, and no man hath seconded him; I have adventured to commit unto you these first fruites of my untainted fame: which if you shall kindly entertaine and make such use thereof as I may not think my labour misbestowed, you shall encourage me cheerefully to run on that course which I have propounded to my selfe to further your profiting in that Noble Art which you have taken upon you to professe. For when I first began, I intended the Anatomy to be but an entrance into a worke of Chyrurgerie, which I had digested into a forme fit, as I thinke, first to ground and establish you in the Principles and Theory or Contemplative part of your profession, and after to builde you up unto the practise of the same. And because the Body of Man is the Subject of your Art, without the knowledge whereof it is impossible for a Chirurgeon to work with any confidence or certainty of successe, I began with Anatomy.

Crooke positions his endeavor in writing his anatomy manual as a “service” to his “friends” the barber-surgeons. He acknowledges his predecessor, John Banister, who published his less-comprehensive The Historie of Man in 1578. (The fact that he makes no mention of Thomas Vicary’s Anatomie of Mans Body, originally published in 1548 and reprinted in 1577, leads me to believe that volume had less bearing on English surgery and anatomy practices than the other, at least after 1600 or so.) Crooke seems to be planning a much larger career in medical writing than he will actually accomplish, not only in his larger plan for this book but in the other endeavors he hints at, this volume being just the start of his “untainted fame.” Best laid plans aside, it does seem a little bizarre that Crooke begins discussing his self-proclaimed “description of the body of man” in food metaphors, calling the volume his “first fruites” and a “banquet” that has been “cooked” for the “diet and appetites” of the barber-surgeons. The relationship between the body and food is an intriguing one in Mikrokosmographia and resurfaces many times.

Revisiting this first paragraph of “The Praeface to the Chyrurgeons” gave me a feeling of camaraderie with Crooke. My efforts in undertaking this blog seem to echo his own in drafting Mikrokosmographia in the way the project has burgeoned beyond my expectations. My summer schedule has been fuller than I anticipated, and while I enjoy the work, it takes up so much more time than it seems it ought to. However, this, I fear, is the nature of all such academic endeavors. Although the end result may not be what I originally anticipated, with Crooke, I’ll carry on.

The Controversies




Mikrokosmographia comprises thirteen separate books devoted to various components of the human body. Each book includes between nine and forty-three chapters. Books One through Eight are each followed by a sub-section of “controversies,” a set of between eight and sixty-four questions related to the subject matter of the preceding book.

I have not yet read the anatomy volume in its entirety (that is one purpose of this blog). However, based on the reading I have done, the controversies are of no small importance to its significance. Both the chapters and the questions are drawn from other sources; in “The Praeface to the Chyrurgeons,” Crooke explains,

My present worke is for the most part out of Bauhine for the History, Figures, and the severall Authors quoted in his Margents. The Controversies are mostwhat out of Laurentius, with some additions, subtractions and alterations as I thought fit and my wit would serve. . . . I also added Praefaces to every booke conteining the argument and purport thereof: & in the subsequent discourse many passages partly out of my owne observations . . . (❡1r)

My hypothesis for the controversies is similar to that I have for the entire text; although much of the central content is initially drawn from various sources, Crooke makes significant decisions in his concurrent roles as translator, editor, and contributing author in constructing and collating the whole. What I have noticed about the controversies I’ve read is that they in particular provide ready instances of Crooke’s clear, original contribution to the communication of knowledge that happens in this book, because he can hardly resist mediating between contending sources as well as adding his own two bits to the debate. And, indeed, it seems an appropriate place for him to do so.

I’ll examine various individual instances of this occurring as I reach those parts of the text. But I want to mention that I do think it is key to note that Crooke is quite plain and direct about his heavy reliance on various sources yet still promotes his own role in the production of this volume. I’ll also examine this topic more closely as we move on into the preface.