Interesting perspective

By: Benjamin A. Rifkin, Michael J. Ackerman and Judith Folkenberg
Abrams, $16.95, 344 pages

The new, illustrated history of human anatomy, Human Anatomy: A Visual History from the Renaissance to the Digital Age offers a fascinating view not only into the history of medical dissections and renderings of the human anatomy but into the complicated relationship between science, art and religion as well as into the history of printing itself.

Though the ancient Greeks Aristotle and Galen dissected the dead, editors Rifkin and Ackerman explain that it was during the Renaissance that the illustrated anatomy was born and that artists and surgeons returned to a considered analysis of the body.

This beautifully produced book lends itself to hours spent poring over the detailed illustrations which present beautifully crafted cross-sections of the human body, though from occasionally grotesque perspectives, and absorbing the substantive biographies of scientists, doctors and artists who studied human anatomy through the centuries. But most interesting is the visual timeline formed by the illustrations: we can see all that we have discovered, and sense just how much more there is to know. The task is a serious one, for as Rifkin points out in the introduction, “the doctor studies the body to improve its fate; the artist to improve its spirit.”

Reviewed by Killeen Hanson
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