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BARTHOLIN, Thomas (1616–1680)

Acta medica & philosophica Hafniensia. Volume I-II, III/IV (of five). BARTHOLIN, Thomas (1616–1680), editor; STENO, Nicolaus [NIELS STENSEN] (1636–1686) et al.
Hafniæ, Petri Haubold, 1673-1677.

The first four (of five) volumes of the first medical and scientific periodical in Scandinavia with significant contributions by Steno and the Copenhagen biologists. ”The Copehagen biologists, under the quickening influence of Thomas Bartholin, produced five volumes of transactions known as the Acta medica et philosophica Hafniensia, which is now very rare and almost entirely forgotten” (Cole). The leading authors besides Thomas Bartholin and Niels Steensen (Steno) were Holger Jacobsen (Jacobaeus), Caspar Bartholin, Ole Borch (Borrichius), Ole Worm, Simon Paulli, Johan Rodhe, Caspar Kölichen and several others. – ”In the case of many of their observations the interest is rather in the odd and curious, the astounding and marvellous, the unnatural and the abnormal Monsters and freaks of nature receive perhaps the most attention” (Thorndike). The genius of Bartholin was not profound. He relied for inspiration on his famous colleague Steno, who had returned from Italy to Denmark in 1672. In some papers under Bartholin’s name he is only reporting on dissections and drawings made by Steno, who is occasionally mentioned in the Acta as the source of much work to which his own name was not attached. ”Steno stimulated by his important researches on the female genital ducts and ova of the terrestrial vivipera turned his attention to fishes. He gives an account in shark Mustelus of a functional placenta. He gives also, in Mustelus and Acanthias, one of the earliest descriptions and figures of the elasmobranch spiral intestine, which he names ”intestinum cochleatum”. In Torpedo he describes the electric organ, its characteristic vertical prismatic columns, and the nerve supply. Steno’s dissections of the muscles of the eagle, Aquila (1673) is one of the most remarkable essays in zootomy published up to his time, and it is perhaps more detailed and reliable than almost any other. Steno also published a series of nine drawings of the thoracic duct and associated lymphatics of the dog ” (Cole) Thomas Bartholin describes the male mandrill illustrated by three anatomical plates (Male genitalia) and a figure of the entire animal, which had died of disease in the Royal Menagerie. Holger Jacobsen describes the scorpion, the salamander, snakes, several birds, the heron and the parrot (based on dissections and figures by Steno). He also investigated the fascinating and unique anatomical puzzle of the tongue of the black woodpecker (with plate). He gives an exceptionally interesting account of the mole cricket, Gryllotalpa, which is important as being one of the first in which the elongated segmental heart of insects is described and figured. This memoir is a commendable piece of zootomical reseasrch, and it is all the more outstanding because the subject of it was an invertebrate (Cole).

Collation: [Vol. I]: pp (16), 23, 34-148, 159-316, with 16 plates (numerous mispaginations); vol. II: pp (20), 376, with 24 plates; vol. III/IV: pp (16), 99, 98-174 + (vol. IV): pp 216. With 15 plates. These four volumes contain together 51 engraved plates (two folding) and c. 55 woodcuts in the text. Titles in red and black with Haubold’s woodcut device. Lacking the final issue, volume V (1679) published in 1680.

Binding: Bound in one volume, contemporary red morocco with the gilt supralibros of Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie on front and back covers, gilt gauffered edges. The spine has different leather in brown calf. The richly gilt spine compartments and the gilt border on the red morroco sides are darkened by oxidation, while the gilt heraldic stamp is bright. It seems that the spine and the border is of somewhat later date.

Provenance: With the gilt supralibros (the large variant) of Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie 1622–1686, whose great libraries at Läckö, Venngarn and Stockholm were dispersed during the reduction. He also donated books to the Uppsala University Library, among them the Codex Argenteus (the Silver Bible).


Gosch, III, pp 58-59; Cole, F.J. A History of Comparative Anatomy, pp 369-93 reproducing the title-page and 14 of the plates; Thorndike, History of Magic and Experimental Science, vol. VIII, Chapter 30; Egill Snorrason ’Danish Physicians and the Periodicals of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries’ in Danish Medical Bulletin, 5, No 6, pp 200-09 (1958).

A full-text digital copy is available at


Waller 712.

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