JF Ptak Science Books Post 1477
[In case there are younger readers here, this is a notice that some may consider the following images disturbing.]
In the antiquarian world of anatomy books dissection and presentation take place on many different levels--there are very straightforward, unadorned displays of various body parts on blank backgrounds and with no attention paid whatsoever to anything beyond the dissection; there are others that place the dissections and cadavers and whatever the subject of dissection might be in prosaic fields, or against a distant cityscape, or in a well-appointed room, or against a generic table, or within some sort of Baroque ornamentation, and so on. (We'll be seeing more of these presentations in the next few posts.) In general though the work of the anatomist is presented in a basically "finished" state--that is, the dissection is presented in an artistic manner, with a sense of design for the subject material. (Here's one example of hundreds of possibilities: John Browne's A Compleat Treatise of the Muscles, as they appear in the Human Body...1681.)
There are not many examples (before, say 1850) in the history of anatomical display that show the specimens in the stage of display that was almost entirely unadorned, as though we are looking directly at the anatomist's table. Such is the case in the extraordinary work of the anatomist Govard Bidloo (1649-1713) and (artist) Gerard de Lairesse (1640-1711) called Ontleding des menschelyken lichaams..., published in Amsterdam in 1690, which is an unremitting attack on realism in the art of anatomy. There is absolutely no favoritism paid to anything in these images except for truthful display, right down to the nails and pins used to give messy stuff a more-recognizable (to the layman) form.
Another, later, uncommon example of this realism is found in the 1804 work of John Bell's Engravings of the Bones, Muscles, and Joints, Illustrating the First Volume of the Anatomy of the Human Body
These images are a world away from the overwhelming majority of works of anatomy produced from the 16th to the 19th centuries; and that Bidloo's work was so early makes it that much more remarkable.
Source note: all images courtesy of the National Institutes of Health National Library of Medicine, here.