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STENO, Nicolaus [NIELS STENSEN (1636–1686)]

De musculis & glandulis observationum specimen. Cum epistolis duabus anatomicis.
Hafniæ, literis Matthiæ Godicchenii, 1664.

Bound together with other anatomical tracts by Louis de Bils, van Horne, Lauremberg, and others.

First edition of Niels Stensen’s important work on muscles and glands, in which he revealed the true muscular nature of the heart. This was a most important observation, because subsequent studies on the activity of the heart found confirmation in this fundamental demonstration. This first edition in quarto with its beautiful engraved title was published in Copenhagen. A second edition in duodecimo was published in Amsterdam in the same year. Niels Stensen’s De musculis et glandulis contains many new observations and discoveries concerning the anatomy and physiology of individual muscles. He describes the role of the diaphragm during respiration, classifies the tongue as a muscle and describes many other muscles. He states that the heart possesses all the characteristics of a muscle structure and that it is neither the seat of joy nor the source of the blood or of the spiritus vitalis. Niels Stensen, or Nicolaus Steno, the latinized form of his name, was one of the most gifted observers of Nature in the seventeenth century. He was an anatomist, physiologist, physician, geologist and bishop. He was born in Copenhagen, where he studied medicine under Thomas Bartholin. When Copenhagen in 1659 was besieged by Swedish troops, Niels Stensen and his fellow students took part in its defence. He soon left Denmark to continue his studies in the Netherlands. In Amsterdam he studied with Gerhard Blasius, in whose house Stensen in 1660, while dissecting a sheep, discovered the excretory duct of the parotid gland (Stensen’s duct). He next went to Leiden where he after three years took his M.D. in 1664. He then returned to Copenhagen but failing to secure a professorship there proceeded to Paris, Montpellier and to Florence, where the Grand Duke Ferdinand II of Tuscany favourably supported him to be able to continue his studies. Under these new conditions Stensen underwent a spiritual crisis, resulting in his conversion to Catholicism. In 1672 he was again in Copenhagen where he held a series of anatomical demonstrations, but returned to Florence in 1674 where he became a priest and was named tutor to Ferdinand’s successor, Cosimo III. In 1677 Pope Innocent XI named him Titular Bishop of Titiopolis and chief organizer of the Catholic mission in northern Germany. At the same time he succumbed an extreme asceticism, which rapdily undermined his health. He was only forty-eight when in ”unspeakable misery” he died in acute pain from gallstones. He was buried with great pomp in Florence, where a fine monument perpetuates his memory. Among his friends were Swammerdam and Spinoza.

Collation: Pp (4), 1-48, 41-48, 57-84. Additional engraved title leaf (loose).

Binding: Contemporary vellum.

Provenance: Signatures: "Gerh. Boltenhagen" and "A. J. Hagström". Also a crossed over and partly erased signature: "Ex libris ... 1719".

References: Garrison-Morton, 576; DSB, XIII, 30-35; Nordenskiöld, History of Biology, 155-158; Poulsen & Snorrason, Nicoluas Steno 1638-1686. A re-consideration by Danish scientists (1986); Willius & Keys, 101-104, Norman Library 1911; Hagelin, Rare and Important Medical Books, 94-95. Christie´s Norman Sale 807. Waller 9217

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