Medical books from the hand-press period contain a great variety of illustrations. These pictures are created from either a block of wood carved into the form of the image to be printed, or a metal (usually copper) plate with the illustration etched
or engraved onto the surface.
While illustrations in medical books often serve a clinical or diagnostic purpose, illustrating anatomical features or surgical techniques, they also provide ornamentation that places the book within the context of the age in which it was created. These images typically appear before the title page of the book, and help establish the theme and relevance of the work.
The central figures dominate the foreground of these images, but it is the details, figures, and stories occupying the backgrounds of these scenes that this exhibition examines. Within the worlds these images reveal, the look and feel of centuries-old medical practices comes to life.
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