A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7500 images, 4 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 4,200+ total posts
Six days before Christmas in 1665, the city of London and environs had suffered through more than a year of the Bubonic plague: the Great Plague of London, killer of 100,000+ people to that point. It was in this preceding week that the annual report of deaths in the city of London were reported in this very grim bill of mortality:
This quick note comes as the result of a short chase on the detection of the pulse and the ability to determine death--as far back and even before Pliny life was determined by the audible heartbeat, which is where the trouble began, because one can still be very alive with a faint heartbeat. This was a major concern when dealing with folks who were thought to have expired, because in the mid-19th century and before the instruments necessary to make a careful and accurate appraisal of whether the heart was still working were yet finely developed. Laennec's stethoscope appeared around 1816, but as much of an improvement as it was this instrument awaited considerable refinements before a truly solid identification of a non-working heart could be established. The gaps in the determination of the arrival of death led to mortuaries where the supposed-dead were left to themselves at room temperature for three days, awaiting the ultimate determination of death which was putrefaction (as in the Munich and Frankfurt Leichenhaus and the Vienna Zentralfriedhof). Earlier in the history of the determination of death methods were quicker and more brutal (if the patient was still alive) involving bellows-driven tobacco-smoke enema, as well as tongue pulling and nipple twisting. (See an earlier post here on the Worst Jobs of the Nineteenth Century for more on this.)
This led to Etienne Marey (1830-1904), a versatile experimenter and premier instrumentalist who was a scientist, physiologist, and motion-picture/chronographer pioneer, who in the 1880's created what was essentially the world's first moving-photographic "slow motion" device. One iteration of Marey's apparatus was basically a long series of ganged cameras recording a motion for a simple task at a given time frame and presented on a continuous strip of photographic paper, sort of like a motion picture with the camera speed set at three frames per second. The resulting images were phenomenal and showed people for the first time the exactness of all manners of simple motions--motions that no longer looked so "simple" once all of its aspects could be studied from captured photographic evidence. Even the act of hopping over a small stool or bending to pick up a bucket of water were enormously revealing in a way like Robert Hooke's Micrographia displayed the great detail and complexity of the seemingly simple fly.
Aside fron being one of the founders of cinematography, the other aspect of Marey's interest in capturing and manipulating time was in medicine, where by the time this article of interest in this post was published in 1876 he had already established himself as one of the greatest cardiovascular physiologists. What we find in this review in Nature (Thursday, January 6, 1876) of Marey's Physiologie Experimentale (Paris, 1876) was the editor's keen interest in the mechanical heart Marey had constructed to show the actions and functions of the heart--the first time, the article notes, that all aspects of the action of the heart were exhibited correctly in one model.
Of particular interest was the recording device for the pulse of the heart, which was one in a series of devices such as that improved upon, something Marey himself had done with the first-introduced sphygmograph ("pulse wrtier") of Karl von Vierdodt in 1854. The 1875/6 Marey instrument made major advancements in continuous graphical registration in instruments of continuous noninvasive arterial responses.
These remarkable woodcut images come from Charles Estienne's (1501-1564) De Dissectione Partium corporis Humani linri tres,
a 375-page opus illustrated with 62 fantastic full-page woodcuts and
published in 1546 This work is surpassed I think only by the
masterpiece Fabrica by Vesalius (1543)--the great standard of anatomical illustration.
The images are remarkable not only for their superior and significant anatomy, but--for me--also for the placement of dissections with the body from which they were taken.
Artist: La Rivière, Étienne de, d. 1569. Engraver: Jollat, Jean "Mercure," fl. 1530-1545.
Title: De dissectione partium corporis humani libri tres.
Publication: Parisiis: Apud Simonem Colinaeum, 1545.
The entire series of illustrations from the National Library of Medicine, here.
In 1664 Philipp Jakob Sachs (Sache de Lewenbheimb) wrote an influential book on the circulation of the blood. It was the advanced work of a learned man, a naturalist and physician who was also the editor of the Ephemerides Academiae naturae curiosorum, which was the first journal in the field of natural history and medicine and one of the founders of the Academia Naturae Curiosorum (Leopoldina). His work came 40 years after the great work by William Harvey, who published Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus in 1628, a work in which he essentially brought the idea of circulation of the blood into the modern age, building on earlier ideas of Michael Servetus, whose 1561 work on circulation (and his religious ideas) brought him to be executed by flames.
For centuries the pulse was
a vaguely understood thing reaching back into the murky medical past as far
back as Galen. The association of course
was with the heart, and the association of the heart was as the great
controlling center of all function and control of the human body—a theory that reached
far forward into the 16th century.
Servetus (physician, cartographer, theologian, writer and
general all-adept Humanist of a high order) was in trouble with the church for
many reasons, not the least of which was trying to dislodge the theory of the
heart as sacred and the seat of wisdom.
But he did establish that the heart was an organ, which didn’t sit well
with very many people, least of all the Calvinist court in Vienna
which found him guilty on many anti-Humanist grounds, including his
anti-Trinitarian Christology, which made him a reviled figure to Catholics and
Protestants. He was tried and found to
be dangerously heretical, and sent to the flames.
withstood blistering attacks on his correct statements on the circulation of
the blood (costing him nearly all the patients in his practice), though he at least
lived to see a brighter day: Servetus, on the other hand, didn’t, and was
burned at the stake for his heresies, one of which his attack on the spiritual
In any event, the frontispiece to Sachs' work is an interesting allegorical composition showing a connection between the place of the very prominently featured heart in the circulation of the blood, and the water cycle, and the cosmos of creation (the breath of life coming from the winds of the Sun and the Moon).
Notes: (Sachse de Lewenheimb, Philipp Jakob Sachs, 1627-1672 , Oceanus macro-microcosmicus, seu Dissertatio epistolica analogo motu aquarum ex et ad Oceanum, sanguinis ex et ad cor... 1664, with full text via Google books here).
Following a posting from a few days ago listing the causes of admittance of children to an insane asylum in Powick, U.K. from 1854-1900 comes this find--a rather extraordinary find, regarding the causes for admission as an insane person to the City Insane Asylum of New Orleans. This site has an incredible (and indelible) record of the patients admitted from 1882 through 1916 ("Orleans Parish (La.) Civil Sheriff Register of patients transported to the State Insane Asylum, 1882-1917"), including the reasons for confinement, as well as the causes of the debility, plus the age of the person and their occupation.
Following the link will get you to the year-by-year index of admittance--there is no standardized set of instructions or rules to identify the illness or supposed illness, so the way that the physician factored the mental disabilities of the patient was open to some wide interpretation.Some of the reasons for admittance included stupidity, alcoholism, idiocy, epilepsy (still about the leading "cause" for admission), imbecility, insanity, dementia praeox,hysteria, "delusional about Italians", religious mania, and so on.
"Responsibility for insane patients (particularly the
indigent insane) housed in the City Insane Asylum (or in various
hospitals after the city facility closed) fell to the City Physician,
who was to visit patients at least once a day and to discharge those
patients who had sufficiently recovered. He also identified those
inmates who had remained in the asylum "over the time prescribed by law"
and reported their names to the sheriff of Orleans Parish, who arranged
their transfer to the State Asylum at Jackson, La."--Source
The major subset of the diagnosed diseases and illness was the "-mania". Aside from a general mania, there was an alpabetization of the competing manias, including religious-, chronic- , kelpto- , furious- , erato- , raving- , homicidal- , acute- , indcenidary- , puerpueral- , mono- , recurring- , delusional- , suicidal-, and a few others.
It is the "causes" of these challenges that seem to be the most viciously interesting part of this record. Stuff that sent people into maniacal flights or rages or depressions and other anti-social behavior included but was not limited to alcohol, syphilis, weak mindedness, heredity, drugs-in-excess, old age, "womb trouble", "attack of gripe", "poverty and want", jealousy, sunstroke, onanism, menopausia, hallucinations, masturbation, "mental worry", "family troubles", tobacco, softening of the brain, and so on.
There is room for someone here to go through the 30-odd years of entries to see what were the most/least common causes of mental instability--it would be an interesting list to see someone else generate.
There is a real fabulousness in design for these images made by anatomist/physiologist Jean-Baptiste Sarlandiere (1787-1838) in his anatomy of 1829 (Anatomie méthodique, ou Organographie humaine en tableaux synoptiques, avec figures. Paris: Chez les libraires de médecine, et chez l'auteur, 1829). Or at least the organize has achieved some high order of merit, both in the lettering/numbering and display of the anatomical object...and in their placement and arrangement on the sheets of paper. They're just very pleasing: the very detailed and complex images are stuffed but concise, and the multiple-image placements are composed of very detail small bits with plenty of free space. They're just very well-designed.
[Detail from engraving in the seventh image, below]
I'm not sure if I've ever seen a 16th century human perspective drawing showing the body in plan and elevation and cross-section. Jehan Cousin the Younger (1522-1595, in France), the son of Jean Cousin the Elder 91490-1560), a painter and sculptor, produced such an image in his Livre de Perspective, which was published in 1560. Well, the image definitely was published in 1560, though the artist may have been father and it may have been son--they worked closely together, and the Younger was taught at great length by the Elder, so much so that their work became indistinguishable. Nevertheless, the images I think are quite extraordinary, as we see below:
And so by Andreas Mantegna, a classic example:
The following images come from the 1608 edition of the Cousin Perspective. a number of which are fairly unusual (all from the Library of Congress site, here):
Thanks to the always-fascinating book by Jan Bondeson, Buried Alive, the Terrifying History of our Most Primal Fear (W.W. Norton, 2001), which excited this interest in Dr. Severin Icard.
The determination of the occurrence of death was a major medical feature of the 19th century, the French in particular waging a fight for how this to be so. Briefly
put, for centuries even before Pliny death was described as the absence
of an audible heart—the crux of the sentence being the word “audible”,
so that the end of life was dependent upon being a physician’s/person’s
capacity to hear the heart beating. This might be very
problematic if the person listening for that heartbeat had faulty
hearing from defect or age, as the listener would place his/her ear on
the chest of the patient to determine if the heart was functioning or
not. The stethoscope wasn’t invented until 1816 by Rene
Laennec--who produced a monaural device much like a primitive hearing
horn made of solid wood—which was a vast improvement over no stethoscope
at all, by again was very crude compared to early 20th century devices. It
was much more preferred by most doctors (though there were contingents
who distrusted the instrument and wouldn’t use it and still others who
thought it an insult to their person insinuating defective hearing
capacity) compared to the ancient hairy-ear-on-chest method. It was also, in a small way, a kind of auditory x-ray.
There were other ways to make the sometimes very difficult determination of actual death. Some methods seem extreme, and a little barbaric, and at the very least, "odd", but they were also effective to some degree. For example, Leon Collongues believed that he could hear the capillary functions of a possibly-dead person’s fingers if placed in his ear; Jules Antoine Josat
invented a nipple-pincher ("pince-mamelon") life-rejuvenation device,
operating on the assumption that a deeply sedated person could not
resist a strong pinch of the nipple and would have to wake up if alive; the tongue-pulling idea of Dr. J.-V. Laborde; Christian August Struwe’s electrical device that delivered a dual shock to the eye
and lip that was supposed to result in a twitch in the supposed-departed's eye or lip; the tobacco enema of Antoine Louis; Barnett's scalding death cure, which recommended burning the skin of the
arm to see if it blistered (no blister/no life); and so on, deep into the fearsome, troubled and death-filled night.
There was one death test, though, that went beyond the others, if only because it employed a "written test". This was the invention of Dr. Severin Icard, who devised a putrefaction test where the words "I am really dead" on a piece of paper written in acetate of lead would be placed under the note of the "deceased" where the words would appear if they came into contact with putrefaction gas dioxide of sulphur. So, the "breath" of the dead would force the letters to announce their death. Unfortunately the test was not fool-proof and the not-dead could sometimes produce dead results, which would be highly unfortunate in the premature burial kind of way...which is somewhat ironic, because that is how many of these dead tests came into being.
I should point out that Icard had another outre idea for the physical determination and identification of criminals. He proposed that a substance be injected into an unidentified part of a felon to identify the person as a criminal. the injection would produce a visible bump or lump on the person, somewhere; multiples were also possible, as were the locations of the bumps, so that a trained eye could determine the crimes committed by the Bump Map of Crime on the victim.
[Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, volume LVII, July-December 1911.]
There is something very art/plastic about this work, sculpture without the material, though there is already a marble stand from which the anatomical presentation springs. The depiction of muscle is beautiful, and the inclusion of the muscles of the eyes--seemingly laid in to avoid letting the blank space go without use--gives the overall affect of the unintentional absurd. The source for this delightful work is Bartholomeo Eustachi's (d. 1574), Romanae archetypae tabulae anatomicae novis..., published in Rome in 1783, the images drawn by Giulio de Musi for the anatomist Eustachi.
[Source: National Library of Medicine, Dream Anatomy, here.]
Pabst Brewing Company, makers of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer (evidently named for the Blue Ribbon that they did not receive in the 1893 Columbian Exposition) marketed one of their malt extracts as a curative, a palliative of some sort. In this ad--rendered in a sort of Egyptian motif, because as we see in the legend at the bottom of the image in a barely-visible type, "the history of brewing begins in Egypt"--the malt extract is useful for a very wide variety of aliments.
The two testimonies quoted in the ad come from a Dr. P.O. Warner, of Sand Beach, Michigan. The first example is for the use of the Pabst product for an "anemic...run down to almost a skeleton" child--after a week of use of the malt extract, the child was again "plump". Unfortunately, the use of malt extract is generally used to treat constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome, and as a stool softener--something to help folks go to the bathroom....in the case of a weakened child, this seems to have been exactly the opposite thing to prescribe.
The second case is even more reaching: "really marvelous" results in using Pabst malt extract to help a woman with/getting over (?) typhoid fever. I'm not sure how this would have come into play, or if the simple consumption of a Pabst beer would have been a less-harmful remedy.
The elegant ad appears in a beautifully printed nickel Little Magazine called The Chap Book, printed by the estimable Stone & Kimble of Boston.
This book review on the use of narcotics in treating the insane appeared in the New York Journal of Medicine for 1846. The book, An Essay on the Use of Narcotics, and other remedial Agents calculated to produce Sleep in the Treatment of Insanity…., was by Joseph Williams, M.D., and was published in London in 1845. The theory behind the sleep treatment was that the basic mechanism of insanity was “cerebral inflammation” or “excessive vascular action” in the brain—inducing deep sleep, evidently, was a good way to combat the over-active/inflammed/blooded-up brain.
The article itself comes at an odd time in the history of the treatment of the insane. It came almost 40 years after the establishment of McLean Hospital (first known as the "Asylum for the Insane," a division of the Massachusetts General Hospital), which opened on Oct. 1, 1818, and was the first hospital dedicated to the treatment of the insane in the U.S. It came 70 years after the great advances of Benjamin Rush, who elevated the “Mental Patient” from chains on the floor to the status of medical or nervous illness or disease. The use of narcotics over this period seems to have surged and waned. In 1879, in an article in the New York Times, the reputation of the Asylum for the Insane on Ward’s Island in NYC was considered—and one of the high points was that it had (largely) discontinued the use of narcotics in treating the patients their. (There were still problems, of course, what with the asylum being overcrowded, housing 1100 in an institution meant to house 700, and where the chores and even nursing positions were staffed by the inmates, who were feed on 32 cents a day.) As late as 1921, though, Jacob Alter Goldberg notes in his Social Aspects of the Treatment of the Insane, that there was a new, sharp increase in “toxic narcotic” treatments of the insane. Of course, I guess one could replace “narcotic” with some sort of other misplaced treatment, like shock therapy, or Freudian mélanges, or something. Each age must necessarily have their entry in the encyclopedia of embarrassments .
In this article we find sleep assaulted by the use of the following: purgatives (“to subdue vascular action when the propriety of bleeding is doubtful’), emetics, opium (to be used “in cases of high nervous excitability and in puerperal mania”), morphia (“the most valuable remedy for calming excitement”), hyosciamus (“to produce sleep, tranquilizing the irritability of the insane”). It is weird to see that the last sentence in the description of hyosciamus reads “some fatal cases have occurred from exhibiting henbane as an enema”. Henbane has been in use since ancient times, and is largely understood to be a dangerous/poisonous drug--to administer the thing as an enema leaves little doubt that it would kill people.
Still to come in the review is conium (“I have used it frequently and in large doses…it is chiefly valuable as a deobstruent and alternative”, followed by camphor, Belladonna, hydrocyanic acid, colchirum, stramonium aconite, and others. “Warm baths’ makes an appearance (“90 degrees may be considered to be the best temperature for a warm bath for the insane”), as do cold baths, and the applications of ice caps.
I’m not so sure about what to make of it all, the sleep treatment of insanity I mean—after all, Joseph Lister only makes his epochal pronouncements on cleanliness in the operating theatre 15 or so years after this paper, which seems today to be the most rudimentary thing that one could do in treatment in the surgical room, so treating extra blood in the brain through drug-induced sleep doesn’t seem all that far away from the realm of possibility back there in early Victorian England.
I don’t think I’ll forget the toxic narcotic enema any time soon, though. Or the word “deobstruent”.
This woodcut of applications and applicators to injured humans, lacking the human, waiting for the human, the missing human, was made by Hieronymous Fabrizzi (or Jerome Fabricius, 1537-1619), and found in his Opera Chirurgica, printed in 1723. Even though this is a pretty straight-forward image, it strikes me as a little odd, a little off, looking a bit like inhuman trappings, the entrapments of a human waiting to be built, an artificial skin with artificial bones. It was much less than that, and in its way, much more—it was a statement of the advances of medicine in the 16th century, a map of the ability of man to replace himself; a map of the artificial man. Perhaps the image of our own artificial man, showing our ability to replace organs, bone, skin, limbs, etc.may come to look to the people of the near future the same way that we here in the present look back on Fabricius’ mage.
A Map of Getting Wounded
This map of the wounded man was a very popular, much reproduced image, seeing publication in many works since it first appeared in Johannes de Ketham's Fasciculus Medicinae, printed in the year Columbus set sail for India. It was a battle map, really—a battle for the human body, showing the effects of what happened to that body when someone tried to erase its existence. The image is graphic, realistic and fairly gruesome, and highly useful. It was accompanied by instructions on how to deal with all of the trauma, and to save the man thus that he could fight again. In its way, this might be the earliest issue of M.A.S.H. This woodcut, as the next, appeared in Hans von Gersdorff. Feldtbüch der Wundartzney (printed in Strassburg, by H. Schotten, in 1528).
A Map of Letting the Blood out of the Human Body.
Well, it really wasn’t like that, not how I mean by by snippy modernist viewpoint looking back on medical history with no contextual appreciation. Bloodletting was an approach to healthfulness, as blood was seen as one of the four major elements (or “humours”) of the human body that needed to be kept in balance. This was accomplished via the application of leeches or by the more common (and quicker) practice of venesection, or opening a vein to allow the blood to come out. (Let’s reference Steve Reich’s magnificent “Bruise Blood” creation of 1966 at this point—I don’t think that I’ll ever have a better chance to drop a reference to this piece of revolutionary music in regards to venesection again.) Thus this map was map for the practiconers of bloodletting—the physicians, and more probably the barbers and other assistants who would inherit this lesser procedure from the more-busy doctors. In the history of maps of anatomy and the general practice of mapping the human condition, this woodcut x-ray of the best places to drain human blood would not survive close to the age of modernity, disappearing almost entirely by the 18th century, and becoming much more scarce well before that.
[Image: the anatomical furnace for the distillation and diagnosis of urine. From: Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, second edition, Basel/New York 1982, page 193/194. the image also found on line here.]
While the ancient aspects of the inspection of urine as medical discovery seem distant, it is not so, the practice continuing for thousands of years, deep into the 17th century. There are some surprises, though, here and there, in the recent history of uroscopy, particularly involving Paracelsus (Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541), and specifically with his Anatomy, that is, the Dissection of the Living Body or of Distillation of the Urine, printed in 1577. This is one of the many of the works of Paracelsus printed posthumously--in his relatively short but very full life of 84 years, he published four books, but then in the 40 years or so following his death there were at least 14 more works that were published. (A general overview of the works by and about Paracelsus--who worked in the areas of medico-occult and philosophy, alchemy, astronomy/astrology, theology, magic and more--can be found by piecing your way through the always-useful OCLC/WorldCat, here).
In the practice of general uroscopy urine was seen as a window into the health of the body--rather the lack of health. For centuries urine was simply observed, its color plotted against color wheels. Paracelsus worked in a different vein, and although this approach seemed as antiquated as possible after hundreds of years of practice, he adopted a proto-scientific approach to his urine inspection. The idea of urine and his "anatomical furnace", wherein the urine was distilled in a cylinder the size of the subject for interpretation, was a wide but interesting sidestep in the history of uroscopy, filled with some slight hope and more-than-slight abundance of need in belief. The point though is that Paracelsus went about this scientifically--no longer just an observational inspection: the urine was distilled, and coagulated bits (the "morbid species") was separated from the urine, and the precipitated items were studied, a "chemical dissection" (according to Walter Pagels in his standard biography of Paracelsus 1982). The cylinder was graduated in proportion to the subject; there was careful collection and handling of the specimen, and attempts were made to see beyond the standard practice of centuries past. So there was some hint of scientific method in this work--something that Pagels notes but still labels the work "disappointing, albeit a subtle new brand of uroscopy".
Women, weak women, women with iron-poor blood, were sought by the manufacturers of Nuxated Iron, a small-bottled mottled mess that promised to increase vigor and iron levels, mostly through miracle. It turns out that, according to various early studies, there was a very small amount of iron in the concoction, as well as small amounts of strychnine. An E.O. Barker, M.D., reported to JAMA in 1923 that a small boy he attended who had taken 32 of these Nuxated Iron tablets died from strychnine poisoning. There was no benefit from the iron, evidently; I wonder what the long term effects of small dosage ingestion of strychnine led to? ["Weak Women" ad for Nuxated Iron from Illustrated World, November 1920/]
"Tears are the trails of plenty and of want, both of which are sometimes the same."--Not from Ambrose Bierce's Devils Dictionary.
"Let one rejoice in smiles, the other in tears;
Let the same labour or pain be the office of both...."-Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy
fools, O madmen, he exclaims, insana studia, insani labores, &c. Mad
endeavours, mad actions, mad, mad, mad. O saeclum insipiens et
infacetum, a giddy-headed age. Heraclitus the philosopher, out of a
serious meditation of men's lives, fell a weeping, and with continual tears
bewailed their misery, madness, and folly. Democritus on the other side,
burst out a laughing, their whole life seemed to him so ridiculous, and he
was so far carried with this ironical passion, that the citizens of Abdera
took him to be mad, and sent therefore ambassadors to Hippocrates..."
Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, page 224.
The image above is a detail from one of the sixteen engraved images found in Ame Bourdon's fabulous anatomy, Nouvelles tables anatomiques (printed in Cambray and also in Pair by Laurens d'Houry in 1678). (A good description is found for this work, as well as the rest of the illustrations in their entirety, from the National Library of Medicine, the source for this diversion).
I'm not sure why the subject here is crying; and I'm also feeling that I've never seen an example of a crying figure in any antiquarian anatomy book before this one. I remember from another;project that eyelids and tears were of some considerable interest later on, finding no less than 25 books dedicated to the subject printed in the period 1825-1895 or thereabouts. (That bit of research was undertaken doing some background on a 19th c aboriginal torture of staking a victim to the high desert ground and cutting their eyelids off so that the sun would cause blindness from constant exposure). And I don't know when the eyelid is given its first anatomical drawing/consideration, displayed on its own and flattened out for inspection. And it would be interesting to know when the first extended modern scientific appraisal of tears was made. On the offhand I thought that Burton in his absolutely magnificent and very difficult book, The Anatomy of Melancholy, might have something to say about it, but it doesn't--as a matter of point, it seems that the word 'tear/s" appears less than ten times through the whole work, which I find a little surprising.
No matter. I just wanted this to be a quick diversion to consider if Bourdon really did intend to include tears for his model, or if the engraver took a little liberty and added some emotional elements to the image. It is certainly plausible, as human anatomical specimens had been presented in any number of different poses and posed with different items and in tremendously wide spectrum of emotion expression that crying would be but a small step to take for exhibition. There also seems to be perhaps no connection to any sort of physiology of crying--the subject just looks like someone with tears on their face, unassociated with any sort of muscle movement around the eyes, or glands or ducts or whatever. (Charles Darwin described a usual contraction of the muscles around the eyes when the subject cried, as he published in his Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (1872)). The tears may just be Baroque ornamentation.
On the other hand, there may be a tenuous connection in the engraving to the tears and the sectioned brain. It wasn't too much earlier in the history of crying that it was thought that tears were a cathartic-purgative product of the brain, which is an idea that goes back to Hippocrates and his heirs and which held sway for more than a thousand years.
As Tom Lutz writes in his wonder Crying, the Natural & Cultural History of Tears (W.W. Norton, 1999) the English physician Timothy Bright poetically described tears in 1586 as "the excrementious humiditie of the brayne" (page 73), which were the "brai's thinnest and most liquide exrement". The idea of catharsis began to wane by the 17th century, and the four humours were identified more as a belief system than a medical reality, but the idea of the cathartic brain and its release of tears may have hung on to be included in Bordon.
But it does seem rare, crying does, in the annals of the history of anatomy--much less so in the history of art books that explore emotions and facial expression (like Chalres Le Brun (1616-1690) in his Méthode pour apprendre à dessiner les passions (1698)). At the end of the day, these tears may well just have been a sly way of the engraver to exercise a little creativity.