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.

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.

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.

Food for thought

I recently read Medicinal Cannibalism in Early Modern English Literature and Culture by Louis Noble (published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2011). Noble’s excellent text sheds light on something that has previously caught my attention in Crooke’s book: the intriguing (and sometimes bizarre) relationship between the body and food in the early modern period. Specifically, the chapter “Medicine, Cannibalism, and Revenge Justice: Titus Andronicus” put me in mind of two particular things I first noted when I got the chance to examine the 1615 copy of Mikrokosmographia held in the John Martin Rare Book Room at the Hardin Library for the Health Sciences at the University of Iowa.

1. The illustration Crooke provides of “the Kidnies” and “the vesselles of the Kidneyes” looks startlingly like food – and not just a kidney bean. I see a bunch of frisée lettuce and apples:

2. Crooke’s discussion of the female breast and its role in feeding the infant appears in Book Three, “Of the Parts belonging to Nutrition or Nourishment” — among the stomach, intestines, kidneys, gall bladder, liver, spleen, etc. — rather than Book Four, “Of the naturall parts belonging to Generation,” where I would expect to find it. Although I haven’t fully explored the idea yet, to me this represents a particularly male view of the female body. Even if we accept its infant-feeding capabilities as the primary role of the female breast, the female might see her own breast as something that enables reproduction as her ability to nourish her offspring ensures the child’s viability. The male, however, sees the breast as something that fed and nourished him, and therefore categorizes it with the parts of the body involved in ingestion and digestion.

Furthermore, Noble points out a detail that is not only interesting but incredibly important to my understanding to the culture of anatomy surrounding the production of Crooke’s book, something I had previously missed. Noble writes:

Until 1632, dissections were performed in the kitchen of the Barber-Surgeons’ Hall; however, this transgressed in a rather troubling way the proper function of the kitchen, particularly given the tradition that a special dinner was enjoyed after each anatomical demonstration. In 1632, an urgent demand was made for a special anatomy theater to rectify the situation . . . (54)

When I first read this, my initial reaction was, “Surely, that can’t be right!” I had imagined Mikrokosmographia used in the anatomy theater from its first publication in 1615. I returned to Kate Cregan’s article “Blood and Circuses,” the best source on the Barber-Surgeon’s Anatomy Theater I had handy. Citing The Annals of the Barber Surgeons of London (Sidney Young, 1890), Cregan reports:

At their incorporation in 1540, Henry VIII granted the Barber-Surgeons of London a perpetual right to the bodies of four executed felons per annum, to be used at their discretion, as anatomical subjects . . . . Initially regular public anatomies were held in the common hall of the company, with temporary scaffolding erected for the accommodation of the crowd of spectators (Young 315). . . . The temporary scaffold structure was superseded by a purpose-built Anatomy Theater, designed by Inigo Jones and built between 1636 and 1638. (42-43)

Noble also cites Young with a description of the kitchen anatomies:

. . . hitherto those bodies have beene a greate annoyance to the tables dresser boardes and utensills in our upper Kitchin by reason of the blood filth and entrailes of those Anathomyes and for the better accomodateing of those anatomicall affaries and preserveing the Kitchin to its owne proper use. (54)

Cregan provides a rather less provocative description from Young that describes the early temporary scaffolding structure without mention of the kitchen:

1st February, 1568. Also yt ys ordayned and agreed by this Courte That there shalbe buyldyngs don and made aboute the hall for Seates for the Companye that cometh unto every publyque anathomy, ffor by cawse that every prsone comyng to se the same maye have good prspect over the same and that one sholde not cover the syght thereof on frome another as here fore the Company have much cõplayned on the same. . . . And also ther shalbe pyllers and Rods of Iron made to beare and drawe Courteynes upon & aboute the frame where wthin the Anathomy doth lye and is wrought upon, for bycawse that no prsone or prsones shall beholde the desections or incysyngs of the body, but that all maye be made cleane and covered wth fayer clothes untyll the Docter shall com and take his place to reade and declare upon the partes desected. (Young 315, in Cregan 42-43)

This explains why William Jaggard’s smaller epitome of Crooke’s text was necessary even in 1616, when it first appeared; whatever the size of the room, it seems many members of the company had difficulties seeing the anatomy subject during the procedure. Of course, this could have been due to overcrowding in a small space, rather than the problematic distance of the further seating in the proper anatomy theater once it was built. I do not have a clear concept of what would be defined as a “kitchen” in this time period, or of the layout of the original Barber-Surgeons’ hall. I do not think I would go so far as to call this a “discrepancy” between Noble and Cregan, as Cregan’s “common hall” may be inclusive of or synonymous with Noble’s “kitchen,” but I am interested in pursuing further details about the original situation.

As a side note, I want to mention that there won’t be a post next week – next Friday is the date of my move to Iowa, and I’ve been too busy with packing and wrapping up the class I’m teaching to get ahead on blog posts. Although this summer I haven’t been as consistent as I would have liked, my ultimate intention is to regularly post at least once weekly, although my yet-unknown fall schedule will determine what day of the week that will be.

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

“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.

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

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.