When “nothing” goes missing

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.

When “Nothing” Goes Missing: The Impotent Censorship of Helkiah Crooke’s Mikrokosmographia

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.

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Crooke and censorship

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.


The 1651 edition

While in Seattle for the PAMLA conference, I was able to make a brief visit to the Health Sciences Library at the University of Washington to view their copy of the 1651 edition of Crooke’s Mikroskomographia. Although I didn’t have time (or the resources handy) to closely compare the text itself (by which I mean the words that comprise the body of the work – is “text” the correct term?), I did notice several other distinct aspects of this edition and this individual book.

For one thing, the 1651 edition includes several new illustrations. Most striking is the completely made-over title page, part of which I’ve mentioned in an earlier post. This title page also appears on the 1631 edition (and perhaps others; I suppose one thing to add to the “to-do” list is a catalog of title pages among editions). I apologize for the poor image quality; while my iPhone camera actually does quite a fine job when given the chance, I was in a bit of a hurry, and ended up with several blurs. I do have better photographs of each of the individual sections.

There are many interesting images packed into the tight space, and I’ll spend another post examining each more closely, including the tableau at the bottom which, supposedly, includes a portrait of Crooke himself. What I found most unfortunate about this UW copy is that the library has placed their identifying stamp directly on the back of the title page, causing the bright blue ink to bleed through right in the middle of the text at center. I mentioned this to Donna Hirst, curator of the John Martin Rare Book Room at the medical library here at UIowa. She explained that some sort of permanent identifying mark is necessary in case the book should be stolen; however, she agreed with me that the placement of the UW stamp was a travesty. I wonder if perhaps they were worried the title page itself might be torn out, given that it’s arguably the most interesting visual in the book. Although I’d rather see it some place more unobtrusive, I do like the idea of a permanent mark being placed on the book by each and every one of its owners, as a matter of provenance as well as narrative—it’s part of the book’s own story.

The images within the 1651 Mikrokosmographia also vary from the 1615 edition. There are new additions, as well as alterations to existing illustrations. One of the most striking changes to previous images that I noticed involves the illustration of the female reproductive system; the original detailed illustration of the genitals has been erased into a featureless blob.

1615 edition (UIowa copy)

1651 edition (UW copy)

Given that Crooke’s original inclusion of such explicit images caused vehement protest, but he insisted on printing them anyway (apparently to no consequence), I was initially surprised to see the more demure version in this later edition—until I double-checked my dates. Crooke died in 1648, meaning this later edition was published three years after his death. Thirty-six years later, the censors gained some ground, although I can’t help but think of this victory as rather little, and awfully late. I’m anxious now to check the intervening editions for this image.


Ungilding the lily

The Mikrokosmographia title page illustration (1615 edition), reproduced two ways. Top: Photograph (unevenly lit) of the copy held at the University of Iowa; Bottom: Photocopy from C.D. O’Malley’s Bulletin of the History of Medicine article reproducing another 1615 edition copy

The lower half of Crooke’s title page features the images of two bodies, one male and one female. Like the rest of Crooke’s illustrations (and much of his text), these originated in other sources, “the veined man from a zodiacal chart on phlebotomy and the woman from an almanac,” according to Elizabeth Lane Furdell in Publishing and Medicine in Early Modern England (52). C.D. O’Malley, who sees the inclusion of these images on the title page as a blatant flaunting of Crooke’s defiance in regard to the book’s attempted suppression, identifies the illustrations as “a male and a pregnant female figure borrowed from Bauhin’s Theatrum anatomicum, the latter one of the so-called indecent figures previously condemned by the College” (8). That these sources cite different origins for the illustrations may be due to differing images in subsequent editions; the 1631 Mikrokosmographia title page is much more intricate but still includes the two figures. The female appears softer but retains her previous posture and form, while the male undergoes more significant changes; although he remains veined and inexplicably one-armed, his veining is less detailed (appearing more stylistic and less scientific), he is turned to face the center of the page, and a conveniently placed lily grows to cover his more potentially offensive parts. This may have appeased Crooke’s more prudish readers, but there is an odd juxtaposition in revealing the man’s circulatory system while veiling his external genitalia.

A photocopy of the reproduction of the engraved 1631 title page provided by O’Malley in his Bulletin of the History of Medicine article and credited to the “Wellcome Trustees”; the image no doubt originates from a copy held by the Wellcome Trust in England.

Although there appears to be little in the image to verify that this is, indeed, a pregnant woman (as O’Malley notes), the same illustration does appear in the volume’s Book Four, “Of the naturall parts belonging to Generation,” where it is labeled: “Table x. sheweth the portrature of a woman great with child whose wombe is bared and the Kel taken away, that the stomacke, the guttes and the wombe might bee better seene” (V6v). According to the OED, “kel” is more commonly spelled “kell” and, given this context, would refer to “the fatty membrane investing the intestines”; this is what later becomes the word “caul” (although the alternate spelling “calle” also appears as early as 1382). In any case, this female figure is certainly an excellent example of the “self-demonstrating” anatomy subject Jonathan Sawday describes in The Body Emblazoned (113), as she coldly offers her best-kept secrets to the reader’s gaze.

* As always, for complete bibliographic information on the sources used in this entry, see Further Reading


Moving on down…

. . . the title page, that is.

I continue to be surprised by the tangents this project takes me on, but then I have to remember that was part of my goal in creating this blog. My current knowledge base is incredibly limited, so exploring the various issues that arise in the Crooke book gives me the opportunity to read further and learn more about aspects of seventeenth century England I would never have thought to explore. I have a lot more research to do before I can offer any real insight on the true nature of the relationship between Crooke and James I, so I’m going to continue that work behind the scenes and keep moving with the book here.

Oh, but look! That’s easier said than done. The next line on the title page reads:

Published by the Kings Majesties especiall Direction and Warrant according to the first integrity, as it was originally written by the AUTHOR.

As I’ve mentioned, we’ll come back to Crooke and the king. But I believe that the second part of this sentence – “according to the first integrity, as it was originally written by the AUTHOR” – refers to another significant event related to Mikrokosmographia: the attempted suppression of its publication.

C. D. O’Malley explains, “Although the Microcosmographia bears imprint of 1615 and Crooke’s preface is dated ‘last of May’ of that year, parts of the work had been printed and were in circulation as early as November 1614″ (7).* The preview caused consternation among two groups, one religious and one professional. John King, Bishop of London, objected to both the text and illustrations of the sections devoted to human reproduction, particularly the elucidation regarding the female reproductive system, on grounds of indecency. He appealed to the College of Physicians, who had their own objections to the use of the English vernacular being used to disseminate knowledge they considered part of their professional domain. O’Malley writes,

The result was a decision that the President of the College, Sir William Paddy, and one of the Censors, Dr. Edward Lister, should wait upon the Bishop of London to propose that the Microcosmographia not be published at all and that some compensation be awarded the publisher for the costs he had endured; or, at the very least, book four [“Of the natural parts belonging to generation”] be deleted. (8)

Called before the College, Crooke took a month to make an appearance and then apparently refused to accede, as the College next tried to intimidate his publisher and the President threatened to burn all copies of the book he could get his hands on. In a final effort to induce the cooperation of the author and publisher, the College delegated two of its fellows to emend the offensive portions, but with no greater success, and finally the book was printed in its original form, “according to the first integrity, as it was originally written by the AUTHOR.” I find it intriguing that after all this righteous indignation and furious threatening, there appears to have been no real negative consequences to Crooke’s blatant defiance – aside from its cooling affect on his relationship with the College of Physicians, which was none too warm to begin with. This relationship, like that of Crooke to James I, is another complicated one I need to research further before I can offer any greater insight.

* For complete bibliographic information on this source, see “Further Reading