Account of the Composition of the Human Body


Juan Valverde was a Spanish medical anatomist who was born in Amusco, in the present-day province of Palencia, around 1525. He left for Italy around 1542, and later practiced medicine and taught in Rome. He was the great Spanish follower of the new anatomy established by Andreas Vesalius in 1543 with his work De humani corporis fabrica (On the fabric of the human body). Vesalius was responsible for a new vision of the human body in the modern world. Valverde helped to spread this vision through the 16 editions in four languages (Castilian, Latin, Italian, and Greek) of his own work, Historia de la composición del cuerpo humano (Account of the composition of the human body). The text is profusely illustrated with 42 copper engravings, which follow the practice of the anatomy books of the period, pursuing didacticism through practical teaching and visualization. Many of these engravings are reproductions of illustrations by Vesalius; some others, with important scientific advances, are originals attributed to Gaspar Becerra, who clearly was influenced by Michelangelo. Another engraver thought to have contributed to the volume is Nicolas Beatrizet (circa 1507–circa 1570), and the initials N.B. appear on several plates. Valverde’s great achievements are the corrections he made to the classics and even to Vesalius, and his discoveries relating to muscles, organs, and especially the eye. The significance of the work is both scientific and linguistic. The book marked an important step in the use of Castilian as a scientific language, as it increased the anatomical lexicon in Castilian that had begun with Bernardino Montaña and his Libro de la anatomía del hombre (Book on man’s anatomy) of 1551. Valverde is considered the most important Spanish anatomist of the Renaissance.

Last updated: February 12, 2016