Spotlight on Research in Archives & Special Collections

The Archives & Special Collections at the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library (HSL) at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) serves hundreds of researchers every year. With holdings ranging from 15th century medical books to 21st century CUIMC administration records, the nature and variety of the research conducted by our patrons can, well … fill a book, so to speak. We are always pleased when we see the results of research done in our collections. One example is the work of scholars Dániel Margócsy, Mark Somos and Stephen N. Joffe.

The 2018 book sprung from a survey and analysis of the surviving copies of the first (1543) and second (1555) editions of the celebrated De humani corporis fabrica by Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) offers new insight into a centuries-old subject. A professor of medicine at the University of Padua, Vesalius revolutionized the study of anatomy and its illustration by producing the largest and most detailed anatomical atlas of its time based on actual dissections performed on human cadavers.

Of the 700-plus volumes of these editions that survive, HSL holds four copies of the first edition and two of the 1555 edition  that were part of this survey.

Margócsy, Somos and Joffe used the annotations, provenance and other information gleaned from each copy of the Fabrica to study the influence and reach of this text on the practice and science of medicine over the centuries since its publication. Both an ebook and hard-copy version of their work are held by Columbia University:

Margócsy, Dániel, Mark Somos, and Stephen N. Joffe. 2018. The Fabrica of Andreas Vesalius: a worldwide descriptive census, ownership, and annotations of the 1543 and 1555 editions. Leiden: Brill. (view by appointment) (ebook)

For a more thorough description of the authors’ research, see the article, “The Art of Medicine: Vesalius annotations and the Rise of Early Modern Medicine,” by the same authors in The Lancet:

Margócsy, Dániel, Mark Somos, and Stephen N. Joffe. "Vesalius Annotations and the Rise of Early Modern Medicine." The Lancet 393, no. 10173 (2019): 738-39. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(19)30365-4.

For information, visit the Archives & Special Collections website.

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