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).


“The immense shade of its mother”

The title page of the Crooke book includes the following passage, in Latin:

 —————————Etiam Parnassia Laurus

Parua, subingentimatris se subijcit umbra.

Because I am totally Latin-illiterate (a problem, I know; see “In the beginning“), until I learn the language I am forced to rely on the translations of others. Although elsewhere in the book where Crooke quotes passages in Latin he will frequently provide an English translation, he has not done so here. The lines are from Virgil’s Georgics, specifically lines 18-19 of Book II. My copy is the Oxford World’s Classics edition, translated by C. Day Lewis (Oxford UP, 2009). According to Lewis, the lines read:

                                                 [. . .] the Parnassian bay-tree also,

When tiny, shelters beneath the immense shade of its mother.

Obviously, Crooke is not the only person quoting Virgil in the 17th century, and I look forward to reading more about the role of Virgil’s writings in seventeenth-century print culture. But aside from the obvious appeal of including a quote from a popular source, Crooke is saying something about his own text through the image conveyed by the precise lines he chooses to include.

Crooke pays homage to the debt he owes his sources through the metaphor of the bay laurel trees. Laurus nobilis reproduces by way of flowers and berries; the seeds can be dispersed when the latter are eaten by birds or, logically, when the berries simply fall from the tree to the ground below, so the image of the sapling in the shadow of the “parent” tree is not unrealistic. Native to the Mediterranean, the trees’ location on the slopes of Mount Parnassus is also literally believable, although the mountain’s association with literature undoubtedly plays a role in its inclusion as well, for both Virgil and Crooke. There is certainly something humorously ironic about the depiction of Mikrokosmographia as a “tiny” tree when the volume weighs in at over 1,000 folio-sized pages, but the correlation of the amount of knowledge conveyed in his book to the much larger volume of existing human knowledge about his subject may have been accurate in Crooke’s eyes. The relationship between the book as a physical object and any tree seems almost cliché, even if laurels in particular aren’t used in paper-making. The classical associations the laurel does have are also obviously desirable to Crooke’s aims. The bay laurel’s common use in cooking may initially seem a more awkward aspect of the comparison, but Crooke himself will offer up his text as a “Banquet” he has “Cooked” for his audience within the first few lines of his “Praeface to the Chyrurgeons.”

But the parental relationship established by the use of Virgil’s metaphor is particularly important. In my mind there is little doubt that Crooke was apprehensive about the reception of his work, and not just because of its attempted suppression. His preface (which, believe it or not, we will reach very shortly) is a great deal concerned with how his audience should receive Crooke’s book and the role he intended it to have in the English medical community. It’s certainly true that his sources (Paré, Bauhin, and Du Laurens, among others) provide the bulk of the anatomy information, so that Crooke is making no original scientific contributions to that field. But by portraying his contribution as the child or offspring of those sources, Crooke both establishes and legitimizes a legacy for his work. Calling Mikrokosmographia the child of its predecessors not only clarifies the book’s relationship to its sources but also validates its heavy resemblance to them.

There’s one other word here, though, that I’m particularly interested in, but this is where my lack of Latin becomes more problematic. Matris is easy to identify, but I’m not sure which of the Latin verbs is the source for the translation “shelters.” From exploring various other translations of Virgil accessed online (I’m nowhere near a university library during this summer, unfortunately), I’m under the impression that alternate interpretations might involve more active English verbs, which I see as a significant difference. It is one thing for Crooke’s book to “shelter” under its predecessors; it’s quite another for it to “grow” or even “spring up.” I do suspect that the “subingentimatris” that appears without any spaces ought to be broken out into multiple words; my uneducated guess is “sub ingenti matris.” But if any of my readers can help me out on this, I’d be grateful.

Fiction or Fact?

Collected and Translated out of all the Best Authors of Anatomy, Especially out of Gasper Bauhinus and Andreas LaurentiusBy HELKIAH CROOKE Doctor of Physicke, Physitian to His Majestie, and his Highnesse PROFESSOR in Anatomy and Chyrurgerie.

This is where things start to get sticky, for Crooke and for me.

As I’ve mentioned, one of the biggest problems Crooke faces in academic circles is the issue of authorship. If, on the very title page, he himself admits he didn’t write this book, why should we be interested?*

For one thing, it matters who the “we” is. A book such as this holds interest for a variety of parties with (perhaps surprisingly) varied interests. It has value as a physical object in being a book from 1615. From a history-of-medicine standpoint, it’s significant as the first comprehensive English-language anatomy volume.** But what about those of us who live in the realm of literary analysis?

Even making accommodation for my biases, I still think there is obvious reason for us to give this book closer attention. It sort of dovetails bizarrely with my own efforts in creating a modernized version of the text. Any time you create another “version” of any kind, the editor/translator/transcriber has bearing on the work. It’s inevitable.

If we take that as a given, the next question is how much of an effect the editor/translator/whatever has. In the case of Crooke, my hypothesis is that he has quite a lot of impact. Okay, so he doesn’t make any valuable original scientific contributions. The bulk of his anatomy knowledge may be translated from other sources. But Crooke is still heavily present in this text, in three distinct ways.

First, as translator, Crooke chooses not only which words to use but also how to portray the tone and and intentions of his sources. Second, as editor of the volume, he makes crucial decisions about what material to include, what to cut, and in what order to position things. Third, Crooke has originally authored some portions of the text. Although he himself did not conduct any new anatomies in the process of writing this book, he is an educated and experienced practicing physician, and he draws on his experiences in that capacity to add to this text in multiple places. One of the things I’ll be cataloging as I make my way through the book in this blog is just how much of the text is his own original writing—with 1,000+ pages to sort through, even if it’s only a small percentage it may still be a significant amount.

Cumulatively, as author, editor, and translator, Crooke makes clear rhetorical choices in assembling his text and constructing his arguments, helping me to build my case in defense of studying his book. Where he doesn’t help himself is in making completely fallacious claims like the one above: Crooke may have been a “Doctor of Physicke,” but he was not ever “Physitian to His Majestie,” who in 1615 was, of course, James I.

It is not surprising that Crooke would make a claim like this; at the very least it seems a likely bit of marketing. Crooke had certainly met the monarch and was even “in his favor”—James I would later grant him the keepership of Bethlem Hospital (in 1619). Crooke’s few biographers agree on this: O’Malley says, “in a manner . . . unknown, he [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); O’Donoghue reports that Crooke was “a familiar figure in the city [of London] and at court” (164); and Birken asserts Crooke had a strong ally in James I who offered the physician “continuing support” (ODNB).***

I do admit I am a little perplexed by the final part of the phrase, “and his Highnesse PROFESSOR in Anatomy and Chyrurgerie.” I’m assuming this also refers to James I; it seems not unlikely that the monarch would be attributed all sorts of titles he wasn’t practically prepared to hold. But if I’m wrong about this, please let me know. I simply can’t conceive of any other individual who would warrant the concurrent titles of “his Highnesse” and “Professor in Anatomy and Chyrurgerie.”

“Chyrurgerie” is a fun one, though – this is the word we now know as “surgery.” I think we should bring it back. Next time you’re faced with a medical operation, don’t call it surgery; tell your friends you’re “having chyrurgerie” instead. Doesn’t that make it sound much more fun?

*Of course, there is something ironic here post-Foucault, but I haven’t fully explored the theoretical implications yet. I plan to start with Barbara Traister’s work on early modern works by anonymous authors – but that’s a future post.

**In regard to English-language anatomy texts, Crooke is preceded by, at least, Thomas Vicary (Anatomie of Mans Body, 1548) and John Banister (The Historie of Man, 1578). What sets Mikrokosmographia apart, as I hint at above, is its scope—particularly that it includes a full, illustrated description of the female reproductive system in the vernacular, which cause significant problems in Crooke’s professional and religious circles – but again, that’s another post.

***For further bibliography of these sources, see “Further Reading”