On the Fabric of the Human Body in Seven Books


This superb copy of De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (On the fabric of the human body in seven books) by the anatomist and medical doctor Andreas Vesalius (1514‒64) was printed by Johannes Oporinus of Basel in August 1555. The illuminations are attributed to Jan Stephan van Calcar (Joannes Stephanus Calcarensis, 1499‒circa 1546), a Flemish-born painter who studied under Titian and worked in Italy. The volume is preserved in the Riccardiana Library in Florence. It has a rigid all-leather binding with golden impressions and a red fore edge. The frontispiece and initials are illuminated; the illustrations are water-colored xylographs (woodcuts). The flyleaf of the book carries the class mark “Capponi,” indicating that it came to the Riccardiana Library of Florence in 1688 as part of the library of Vincenzo Capponi, which was inherited by his daughter Cassandra, Francesco Riccardi’s wife. Andreas Vesalius was the Latinized name of Andries van Wesel, who was born in Brussels, at that time part of the Habsburg Netherlands. He studied at the universities of Louvain, Paris, and Padua and became a professor at Padua, Bologna, and Basel. First published in 1543, De humani corporis fabrica libri septem was based on Vesalius’s careful dissections of human cadavers. The book contained detailed descriptions and drawings that greatly advanced the science of anatomy. The revised edition of 1555, shown here, contained many novel contributions and was far more significant than just an update. Vesalius later became imperial physician to the court of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. He died at the age of 49 after being shipwrecked on the Greek island of Zakynthos while returning from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Joannes Oporinus, Basel, Switzerland


Title in Original Language

De humani corporis fabrica libri septem


Type of Item

Physical Description

504 pages : illustrations ; 42.5 x 27.5 centimeters bound in 44.5 x 31 centimeters


  1. Fabio Zampieri, Mohamed El-Maghawry, Alberto Zanatta, and Gaetano Thiene, “Andreas Vesalius: Celebrating 500 Years of Dissecting Nature,” Global Cardiology Science & Practice (2015 (5) 66). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4762440/.

Last updated: July 12, 2017