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About On the Fabric of the Human Body

News and announcements

  December 19, 2008 A recently published article in Renaissance Quarterly shows that the only evidence for a link between the Venetian painter Titian and the illustrations in Vesalius' Fabrica, an after-dinner speech given by Annibal Caro in 1536, has been misunderstood and has in fact nothing to do with this supposed partnership. The article concludes that the substantial number of illustrations in the Fabrica (well over 200) "doubtless resulted from the graphic and engraving work of more than one artist, probably supervised by Vesalius and Calcar." See Patricia Simons and Monique Kornell, “Annibal Caro’s After-Dinner Speech (1536) and the Question of Titian as Vesalius’s Illustrator.” Renaissance Quarterly xli no. 4, 1069–97.
  October 16, 2006 The zooming image server is experiencing technical difficulties. Users will be able to browse and search text, and see image thumbnails, but links to higher resolution images will NOT work. Updates will be posted as they are available.
  January 4, 2006 Books Two and Three of this new annotated translation of On the Fabric of the Human Body, are nearing completion. Publication of Books Two and Three is expected by mid-2006.
  March 19, 2003 Book One of On the Fabric of the Human Body, a new annotated translation of Andreas Vesalius' classic anatomy work De Humani Corporis Fabrica, is published in a free online edition. See the full press release for more information.



The March 2003 release of the first book of this online edition marks a significant milestone in the life of the Vesalius project at Northwestern. Translators Daniel Garrison and Malcolm Hast have been working on the Fabrica for more than ten years. Early in 2001, they teamed up with staff at Northwestern's Galter Health Sciences Library, the University Library on the Evanston campus, and Academic Technologies to publish the first book of their new translation online. While Garrison and Hast expect to publish On The Fabric of the Human Body in print, they felt it was critical that their work be made available as translation progresses. In addition, using the Web as a publication medium greatly enhances the environment in which readers can interact with the text and with Vesalius' beautiful, intricate drawings.

Andreas Vesalius of Brussels (1514 - 1564) produced Europe's most detailed and best illustrated atlas of the human body at the age of 28 in 1543, with a revised edition in 1555. It quickly became what The Oxford Medical Companion calls "probably the most influential of all medical works." Vesalius led a movement towards the hands-on method of training future doctors in anatomy. His work undermined the reliance of anatomists on ancient books, especially the works of Galen (2nd cent. AD), by showing that Galen based his human anatomy on animals such as the barbary ape instead of human cadavers. For Vesalius and those who came after him, the human body, directly observed, was the only reliable source.

Because of the difficulty of the humanist Latin in which he wrote and the scarcity of translations, first-hand knowledge of what Vesalius wrote has been restricted to a tiny circle of experts. The translation and commentary in progress at Northwestern University, with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, will make the full text of both editions available in English for the first time. This English edition, now half completed after about ten years of work, will include

The principal investigators in this project are Daniel H. Garrison, Professor of Classics in Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences, and Malcolm H. Hast, Professor of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery in Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine. Published articles growing out of this project are listed in the bibliography.


Credits for the online edition

Translators and Principal Investigators

Daniel H. Garrison, Professor of Classics in Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Malcolm H. Hast, Professor Emeritus, Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University

Principal consultants for content

Anatomy consultant

Randolph Perkins, Assistant Professor, Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University

Historical consultants

Vivian Nutton, Wellcome Trust Center for the History of Medicine at University College London

Nancy Siraisi, Hunter College

Technical staff

Project leaders

Bill Parod, Humanities Computing Specialist, Academic Technologies

M. Claire Stewart, Head, Digital Media Services unit, Marjorie I. Mitchell Multimedia Center, University Library

Visual and interface design

Joe Hoy, Media Services Architect, Academic Technologies

"Splash page" design by M. Claire Stewart

Student assistants

Paul Clough, TEI encoder

Marius Vygantas, Image processing assistant

Metadata consultant

Rebecca Routh, Catalog Department, University Library

Technical support, testing

Stuart Baker, Head, Library Management Systems, University Library

Steve DiDomenico, Software Engineer, Library Management Systems, University Library

Volodymyr Karpenko, Software Engineer, Library Management Systems, University Library

Leaders and liaisons in University and Library administration

Galter Health Sciences Library

James Shedlock, Director

Special thanks are due to James Shedlock for allowing Galter's 1555 copy of the Fabrica to reside in Special Collections in the University Library on the Evanston campus. This extended loan allows Professor Garrison to consult an original copy as the translation progresses.

Information Technology

Robert Taylor, Manager, Academic Technologies

University Library

David Bishop, University Librarian

Frank Cervone, Assistant University Librarian for Information Technology

Jeffrey Garrett, Assistant University Librarian for Collection Management

Stephen Marek, Head, Marjorie I. Mitchell Multimedia Center, University Library

Russell Maylone, Curator, Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections

Laurel Minott, Assistant University Librarian for Public Services

Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Janine Spencer, Director, MultiMedia Learning Center

Advisory group members

Stuart Baker, Head, Library Management Systems, University Library

Frank Cervone, Assistant University Librarian for Information Technology

Jeff Garrett, Acting Assistant University Librarian for Collection Management

Volodymyr Karpenko, Software Engineer, Library Management Systems, University Library

Virginia Kerr, Preservation Digital Technology Librarian, University Library

Scott Krafft, Librarian, Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections

Russell Maylone, Curator, Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections

Martin Mueller, Professor, English, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Sally Roberts, Reference Librarian and EText project leader

Rebecca Routh, Head, MARC, University Library

James Shedlock, Director, Galter Health Sciences Library

Early support

Staff in the College of Arts and Sciences' MultiMedia Learning Center gave critical advice and support to Dan Garrison in the early stages of his work on this translation. Special thanks to Harlan Wallach for his assistance with scanning and image manipulation.

Other support and advice

James Ferolo, Mythryn Technologies

Dennis Glenn, Assistant Dean for Distributed Education, School of Communication

Stephanie Kerns, Learning Resources Center, Galter Health Sciences Library

Jeff Nemcher, Mythryn Technologies

Brian Nielsen, Academic Technologies, Information Technology

Dan Zellner, Digital Media Services, Marjorie I. Mitchell Multimedia Center, Northwestern University Library

Special thanks

Marjorie I. Mitchell has been a steadfast supporter of the Library and the Multimedia Center that bears her name, and partly through this support, the Library has enjoyed a much-improved capacity to test and adopt exciting new technologies, and to form fruitful partnerships with faculty and other campus technology specialists.

Project support

Support for this project was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities (Endowment Grants RL-22268-95, RZ-20239-98) and the National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine (Grant No. R01-LM05675)

Contact us

Please use this form to send us your questions, comments, or error reports.

Frequently Asked Questions (coming soon)

Additions and changes

  April 3, 2003 Essay "Graphical editing for the Northwestern Fabrica" added

Next steps

Usability testing

Because the work on this online edition was constrained to a relatively short period of time, the staff did not perform a comprehensive usability test. This testing is critical and will commence after the public launch in Spring 2003.

Frames, layers, popup windows

As discussed in the Help page, frames may not be the final choice for presenting text and images side by side. The editors experimented with pop-up windows and layers, and even considered a Flash implementation, but found some aspect of their performance lacking. Some users will not have sufficient screen "real estate" to satisfactorily display both text and high-resolution images side by side. In addition, some of the images themselves beg to be presented side by side for better study and analysis. For example, in chapter 6, he traces the sutures in the skull and examines it from many different angles. It might be useful for the reader to be able to see the from-above and from-below views of the skull side by side, while retaining the ability to zoom in, zoom out, and pan around on images.


This version of the online edition contains structural markup (books, chapters, sections, footnotes, etc.), figures, figure legends, bibliographic citations, and nomina anatomica, or modern anatomical terms. In implementing the TEI, many decisions were made that will be revisited as additional books are brought online. Vesalius's system of internal references must be completed, so that, for example, a mention of an image in Book one, Chapter 6 made in Book five, Chapter 10 can immediately take the user, through a hyperlink, to the original image.

Books two through seven

Professors Garrison and Hast continue their work on the translation. Presently, they are just completing final work on the second book, "All the ligaments and muscles, instruments of voluntary and deliberate motion." A complete table of contents for the entire work is presented in the online edition for reference only. Together, book one and book two represent more than 50% of the work, but completing them was a ten year project.


Bylebyl, Jerome. 1979. "The School of Padua: Humanistic Medicine in the Sixteenth Century," in Health, Medicine, and Mortality in the Sixteenth Century, ed. Charles Webster. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, pp. 335—370.

Cazort, Mimi, Kornell, Monique, and Roberts, K. B. 1996. The Ingenious Machine of Nature. Four Centuries of Art and Anatomy. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada.

Cushing, Harvey W. 1962, 1986. A Bio-Bibliography of Andreas Vesalius, 2nd edn. Hamden, CT: Archon Books. Re-issued with new introduction Winchester: St. Paul's Bibliographies.

Edelstein, Ludwig. 1943. "Andreas Vesalius, Humanist," Bulletin of the History of Medicine 14, 547—561.

Eriksson, Ruben, ed. & tr. 1959. Andreas Vesalius' First Public Anatomy at Bologna, 1540. An Eyewitness Report. Uppsala and Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksells.

French, Roger. 1999. Dissection and Vivisection in the European Renaissance. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Garrison, Daniel H. and Hast, Malcolm H. 1993. "Andreas Vesalius on the Larynx and Hyoid Bone," Medical History 37.1, 3—36.

Harcourt, G. 1987. "Andreas Vesalius and the Anatomy of Antique Sculpture," Representations xvii, pp. 28—61.

Hast, Malcolm H. and Garrison, Daniel H., 1995. "Andreas Vesalius of the Teeth: An Annotated Translation from De humani corporis fabrica." Clinical Anatomy 8: 134—138.

__________. 2000. "Vesalius on the Variability of the Human Skull: Book I Chapter V of De humani corporis fabrica." Clinical Anatomy 13: 311—320.

Holl, Moriz. 1910. "Die Kraniologie Vesals." Archiv für Geschichte der Medizin 4:431-440. Wiesbaden: F. Steiner.

Lind, L.R., trans. 1949, 1969. The Epitome of Andreas Vesalius. New York: Macmillan. Paperback edition: Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press.

Montague, M. F. Ashley. 1953. "Vesalius and the Galenists," in Science, Medicine, and History: Essays in Honor of Charles Singer, ed. by E. Ashworth Underwood. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 374-385.

O'Malley, Charles Donald and J.B. de C.M. Saunders. 1943. "Vesalius as a Clinician," Bulletin of the History of Medicine 14, 594-608.

O'Malley, Charles Donald. 1964. Andreas Vesalius of Brussels, 1514-1564. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Richardson, William Frank. 1998. Andreas Vesalius on the Fabric of the Human Body. Book I: The Bones and Cartilages. San Francisco: Norman Publishing.

Richardson, William Frank. 1999. Andreas Vesalius on the Fabric of the Human Body. Book II: The Ligaments and Muscles. San Francisco: Norman Publishing.

Roth, Moritz. 1892, 1965. Andreas Vesalius Bruxellensis. Berlin: G. Reimer; repr. Amsterdam: Asher & Co.

Saunders, J. B. de C. M. and O'Malley, Charles D. 1947. Andreas Vesalius Bruxellensis: The Bloodletting Letter of 1539. An Annotated translation and Study of the Evolution of Vesalius' Scientific Development. New York: Schuman.

__________. 1973. The Illustrations from the Works of Andreas Vesalius of Brussels. New York: Dover.

Singer, Charles Joseph and Rabin, C. 1946. A Prelude to Modern Science, being a discussion of the history, sources, and circumstances of the "Tabulae anatomicae sex" of Vesalius. Cambridge University Press (Wellcome Historical Medical Museum Publications, New Series No. 1).

Singer, Charles Joseph. 1952. Vesalius on the Human Brain. Introduction, Translation, and Notes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

__________. 1961. Eighteen Years of Vesalian Studies. Norwich: Jarrold & Sons, n.d., ca. 1961.

Siraisi, Nancy G. 1994. "Vesalius and Human Diversity in De humani corporis fabrica," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 57. 60-88.

__________. 1997. "Vesalius and the Reading of Galen's Teleology," Renaissance Quarterly 50, 1-34.

Straus, W. L. and Temkin, O. 1943. "Vesalius and the Problem of Variability," Bulletin of the History of Medicine 14, 609-633.

Zoske, Horst. 1951. Die Osteologie Vesals, Untersuchungen zur Geschischte der anatomischen Nomenklatur. Hannover: Schmorl & von Seefeld.

Copyright and use statement

Copyright© 2003 by Daniel Garrison, Malcolm Hast and Northwestern University. Web site © 2003 Garrison, Hast, Northwestern. Text © 2003 Garrison and Hast. Digitized graphics © 2003 Garrison.

Permission is granted to access, view and link to this work for personal or non-profit educational purposes, provided that links are made directly to the project home page and correct attribution provided from the linking site. The text and images, graphics, and other associated files on this site may not be copied, downloaded, presented inline (or online) on any other site or otherwise redistributed or copied without express written permission.