Juan de Valverde de Amusco's Anatomia del corpo humano, Rome, 1559

Valverde (c.1525-c.1587) was a Spanish doctor. His compendium of anatomy, which was published first in Spanish in 1556, subsequently appeared in 1559 in an Italian translation, the plates from which have been imaged for this project.

[Portrait of Valverde]

Valverde admitted to having made use of Vesalius's illustrations, and was explicit in his expressions of admiration for Vesalius's achievement, while daring to put forward certain corrections. However, Vesalius attacked him in 1564: "Valverde who never put his hand to a dissection and is ignorant of medicine as well as of the primary disciplines, undertook to expound our art in the Spanish language only for the sake of shameful profit" (quoted O'Malley, 1964, p.294).

The text, although following the lines of Vesalius, was entirely written by Valverde, and was shorter and simpler. As for the plates, he wrote: "Although it seemed to some of my friends that I should make new illustrations without using those of Vesalius, I did not do so in order to avoid confusion ... and because his illustrations are so well done it would look like envy or malignity not to take advantage of them."(1)

For his illustrations he used copperplate engravings, and what is interesting is that very extensive use was made of Geminus's plates as models. The choice and arrangement of the groupings for the composite plates are for the most part very close to Geminus's; too close for the similarities to be coincidental.(2) The elimination of the landscapes in many of the large plates, leaving only the most residual ground line with a few tufts of grass, is handled exactly as the plates in Geminus. Valverde, or his draftsmen, must have got hold of an example of Geminus's book and copied it. This is rather extraordinary: that a book produced in so provincial a backwater as London should have been used in Rome, one of the two or three most sophisticated centres of printmaking in the world, is remarkable.

The quality of the engravings illustrating Valverde's book is much higher than those of Geminus. At least some of them are the work of Nicolas Beatrizet (active 1540-1573), a much admired engraver from Lorraine who spent most of his working life in Rome.(3) Although the majority of the plates are taken over from Geminus, with little change, a certain number of them are significantly reconsidered. Early sources attribute to Caspar Becerra (1520-1570), a Spanish artist, a role in the design process, and it may be that he was responsible for those of the illustrations that were new.(4) The book was published by Antonio Salamanca and Antonio Lafreri who were establishing, in Rome, one of the most innovative and important print publishing businesses in Europe.

(1) K.B. Roberts and J.D.W. Tomlinson, The Fabric of the Body (Oxford: 1992) p.211. [Back]
(2) Hind, 1952, pp.42-43 had already noted this. [Back]
(3) A. von Bartsch attributed all the engravings to Beatrizet, Le peintre-graveur, XVI. [Back]
(4) Roberts and Tomlinson, p.214; V. Carducho, Dialogos de la Pintura, ed. F. Calvo Serraller (Madrid: 1979) pp.25-6. [Back]

© 2004 Edinburgh University Library / Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
1 September 2004

5x5.GIF (814 bytes)