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ROBERG, Lars (1664–1742)

Osteologia ab oseou & lego, beenlage.
[Uppsala ca. 1718].

This woodcut of a skeleton, copied from Vesalius, with descriptive text, must be considered one of the greatest rarities in Swedish medical literature. It was quite unknown until Arthur Sjögren wrote about it in 1930. Sjögren also mentions a variety without descriptive text, but with the following letterpress title beneath the skeleton: Sceletum | humanum | ex. Andr. Vesalio. | Ett Skråf, ett Skrälle | Ett skållat, skalat | Människe-Been-Rangl. | Sculpsit L. v. Br. Our variety is a folded folio-leaf. The left side has a full-page woodcut of a skeleton with no other text under the figure than the signature: L. v. Br. Sculpsit. The right side of the leaf has letterpress text with explanation of the human bones unmistakeable from the pen of Roberg. It could have been meant to illustrate his Lijkrevnings Tavlor (1718), but also separately issued at another date. The engraver “L. v. Br.” may be a pseudonym for Roberg or one of his pupils or colleagues. Roberg’s friend and relative, Magnus Bromelius, associate professor under Roberg and in 1716 professor of anatomy in Stockholm, was together with Roberg one of the greatest collectors of books and anatomical specimens, and assisted Roberg in several public dissections. Bromelius, or any of his many well educated children, may be involved. However, Bromelius was not enobled v[on] Br[omell] until 1726. Until recently only the copy and its variety described by Sjögren were known to exist (UUB). However, a second copy has been found in a collective volume entitled 'L. ROBERGII | OPUSCULA’, which contains Roberg’s Lijkrevnings Tavlor as well as 34 other rare pamphlets by him. That volume had been rejected by the Library of the Karolinska Institute (KIB), but instead of being thrown away, it was taken care of, together with several other books of less value, by one of the librarians, Barbro Thrysin, who saved them in a box for many years. Upon her retirement she asked if these items were of any interest for the Hagströmer Library. Certainly they were! – this sammelband, once in the Collegium Medicum Library, is now one of the rarest items in the Swedish Collection of the Hagströmer Library. The discovery of this copy is no less than a sensation!

Binding: Left part with woodcut of a skeleton, right part with letterpress head title as above and 70 lines of text.

References: Arthur Sjögren, Nordisk Boktryckarkonst, 30 (1929), pp 141 ff; 31 (1930), pp 107 ff. Aurivillius, Catalogus librorum impressorum Bibliotheca Regiæ Academiæ Upsaliensis (1814). p. 759. The woodcut skeleton was even unknown to the two great book collectors and bibliographers Gustaf Bernström and Johannes Rudbeck, who both have written about and discovered no less than six variants of Roberg’s Lijkrevnings Tavlor and a copperplate presumed to be a frontispiece to his anatomical textbook.

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