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ASELLI, Gasparo (1581–1626)

De lactibus sive lacteis venis quarto vasorum mesaraicorum genere, novo invento. Dissertatio qua sententiæ anatomicæ multæ vel perperam receptæ, vel parù perceptæ illustrantur.
Basileæ, Henric-Petrinis, 1628.

Bound together with Alpini's De medicinæ Ægyptiorum (Paris, 1645).

This famous book, recording Aselli’s discovery of the lacteal vessels, was first published in Milan, 1627. Aselli’s report of his findings – the only one of his studies to appear in print – was published two years after Aselli’s death by his friends Senator Settala and Alessandro Tadino. That first edition is "the first publication to use coloured illustrations in the interest of scientific accuracy” (Grolier). Its four chiarascuro woodcuts were the first anatomical illustrations printed in colours. In the present (Basle, 1628) and subsequent editions the original woodcuts are replaced by copperplates in reduced size, engraved in reverse and in black only. A new impression, without changes, appeared in Leyden, 1640. The pictures are also to be found in Adrian van den Spieghel’s Opera (1645) and in Manget’s Theatrum anatomica, both in HB. During a vivisection performed upon a dog that had just fed, Aselli rediscovered the chylous or lacteal vessels, which Galen and Eristratus reported to have been documented by Hippocrates and Aristotle, but which had been overlooked by the anatomists of the sixteenth century. Although he recognized their nature and function, he failed to trace them to the thoracic duct, instead mistakenly contruing a connection with the liver, still considered the center of the venous system in the decade before publication of Harvey’s De motu cordis. Asseli’s error was rectified in the 1650’s when three scientists working independently, Jean Pecquet, Thomas Bartholin and Olof Rudbeck, nearly simultaneoulsy discovered the thoracis duct. Harvey himself apparently did not know of Aselli’s work.

Collation: Pp. (20), 67, (1) blank. With 4 full-page engravings. Printer’s device on title. Foxed.

Binding: Contemporary vellum.

Provenance: Signature on title: "Johan Linder" (1676–1723, ennobled Lindestolpe). Swedish physician, who graduated on a dissertation, De venenis (On Poisons) in Harderwijk in 1706 and on which he published a book in 1707, the first monograph on toxicology by a Swede (translated into Swedish in 1998). After one year in Leiden he returned to Sweden where he had a practice in Stockholm and served as spa doctor at Wiksberg. He published about 20 works including Flora Wiksbergensis and a book on dyeing.

References: Garrison-Morton 1094 (1st ed.); Norman 76 (1st ed.); Christie’s Norman Sale, 251 (1st ed.); Grolier, One Hundred Books Famous in Medicine 26 (1st ed.); Choulant/Frank, pp. 240-41; Eimas Heirs of Hippocrates 453 (1st ed.); Krivatsy, NLM, 447. Waller 503 (as well as all three editions).

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