The Anatomical Man

A vellum leaf from a Book of Hours printed for Antoine Vérard in Paris in 1506 (213 x 140 mm)  

(This leaf and the previous one are reproduced at twice the scale of others on this site.)

In printed Books of Hours, Christianity and astrology could coexist. This hand-coloured vellum leaf is from another of Vérard's many editions, probably dating from 1506. The recto page shows his 'device'. Two rather charming angels support the French royal arms –Vérard was the royal printer – while his logo AVR appears inside a red heart supported by two birds. The lengthy French motto, may (or may not) translate as 'To induce, Jesus, thy great mercy towards all sinners of grace and forgiveness, Anthoine Vérard humbly submits that what he has he holds as gift from you'.

On the verso we see the 'Anatomical Man', also known as 'Zodiacal Man'. Most Books of Hours began with a calender indicating the saints days and other feasts of the church's year, with the most important ones in red – 'red letter days'. In printed Books of Hours, according to the early twentieth century bibliographer A. W. Pollard, ' the calendar usually contained poetical directions for the preservation of health, and was therefore preluded by a rather ghastly anatomical picture of a man'.  So the Anatomical Man page is an aide-memoire encapsulating the medical belief of the time about the effects of the planets and signs of the zodiac on different parts of the human body.

The various figures, including the jester, are nicely coloured on this leaf, the anatomical man, with his lopsided eyes, perhaps less so. In the right light (but not on my scans) the sun. moon and planets, blaze out in gold paint. The borders are lavishly gilded also, with delicate reddish-brown penwork, largely what is printed beneath.

Further information about the Anatomical Man is on the next page.

A photograph in sunlight brings out the sheen of the gold paint in a way that is totally lost in the adjacent scans.