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BROWNE, John (1642–1702)

Myographia nova sive musculorum omnium (in corpore humano hactenus repertorum) accuratissima descriptio, in sex prælectiones distributa: nomina singulorum in suo quæque loco, situque naturali, in æneis musculorum iconibus exarantur: eorum item origines, insertiones, & usus, graphice describuntur, additis insuper ipsius authoris, & aliorum nuperrimis observationibus & inventis.
Londini, Joannes Redmayne, 1684.

In 1681 there was published an illustrated monograph on the muscles of the human body entitled A Complete Treatise of the Muscles, written and drawn by John Browne, surgeon-in-ordinary to king Charles II. The book was illustrated with 37 plates engraved by Nicholas Yeates. The book turned out to be very successful. The sheets of the first edition were re-issued in 1683 with a new title-page, and in 1697 a new edition appeared under the title of Myographia nova with 40 plates and an appendix on the heart by Richard Lower. In all ten translations were published between 1681 and 1705, five in English, four in Latin and one in German. Browne’s work was, however, a complete plagiarism. The text had been copied word for word from William Molins’ Myskotomia, or the Anatomical Administration of All the Muscles in the Humane Body (first edition in London, 1648). The plates too were copied from the fine engravings made for Giulio Casserio’s Tabulæ Anatomicæ, the edition used being the one published in Frankfurt 1632, with the pose of the figures and the backgrounds altered. Browne’s plagiarisms were of course discovered, notably by James Young, who in 1685 published a wonderful attack on Browne entitled: Medicaster Medicatur, or a Remedy for the Itch of Scribling ... published for the cure of John Brown; one of his late Majesties Ordinary Chyrurgeons, containing an account of that vain Plagiary ... wherein his many Thefts, Contradictions, Absurdities, Gross Errors, Ignorance, and Mistakes, are displayed and divers Vulgar Errors in Chyrurgey and Anatomy refuted ... ”It is the most searching criticism of an author I have ever read and makes delightful reading” (K. F. Russel). After Young’s blistering review Browne modified the text in his new edition of 1697, published under the title of Myographia nova, to hide Molins’ wording, not, however, for the better.

Collation: Pp. (16), 88 (irregular pagination). With 40 engraved plates, 3 unnumbered and 37 numbered I - XXXVII. The latter are full-page engravings within the pagination, except for Tab. VI and VII, which are printed on both sides of a leaf between pp. 12 and 13. One folding table containing Charles Scarburgh’s Syllabus musculorum. The portrait is not present in this copy.

Binding: Contemporary calf, rebacked with the original red spine label preserved.

Provenance: J. Myddelton with his engraved bookplate inside front cover and his signature on title.

References: Russell 103, and page 14; Roberts & Tomlinson, pp. 404-10; Russell, K.F. ‘John Browne, A Seventeenth Century Surgeon, Anatomist and Plagiarist’ in Bull. Hist. Med., 33 (1959), pp. 393-414, 503-23; Hagelin, Kinetic Jottings, pp. 62-3. Waller 1512.

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