(Amsterdam: Jacob Graal & Hendrik de Leth; Leyden: Dirk, Theodorus, or Cornelius Haak, 1736-41). 294 x 238 mm. (11 1/2 x 9 1/4"). 1 p.l. (blank), 10 pp.; 1 p.l. (blank), 16 pp.,  blank leaf;  pp.;  pp.;  pp.; 1 p.l. (blank),  pp. Six separately published but related works. FIRST EDITIONS.
Leaves stitched into six early (original?) brown paper folders (three with expert repair to fold; three with remnants of paper labels along fold). With printer's device or vignette on title pages and SIX FINE COLOR MEZZOTINTS BY LADMIRAL. Choulant-Frank, pp. 267-69: Franklin, "Early Colour Printing," pp. 40-42; Gascoigne, "Milestones in Colour Printing 1457-1859," p. 10; Garrison-Morton 7507; Heirs of Hippocrates 530-35. Wrappers with minor soiling, first work with a little worming to fore edge of wrapper and leaves, four of the works with minor foxing and browning to letterpress leaves (a bit darker on the two "Durae Matris" texts), last work with small repair (done by backing on obverse) where signature was effaced from title page (no loss), additional minor imperfections, but the texts otherwise basically clean and fresh; the penis mezzotint with a very small closed tear at upper right, otherwise THE PLATES IN FINE CONDITION, their colors undimmed by time.
Following the first medical book with illustrations printed in color by any method (Aselli's 1627 "De Lactibus," containing four chiaroscuro woodcuts), this is the exceedingly rare complete series of six mezzotints that represent the first use of the three-color printing process in any medical or scientific book. And apart from their preeminent place in anatomical literature, these illustrations are also among the earliest appearances of full color printing of any kind. Jan Ladmiral (1698-1773) was a pupil and assistant to the great anatomical illustrator Jacob Christoph Le Blon (1670-1741), who taught his protege the secret process for coloring mezzotint engravings, using three different impressions, one each of blue, yellow, and red. Although one of his illustrations made in this way appeared in 1721 before his pupil's (see below), Le Blon was never able to capitalize on this breakthrough invention. That was left to Ladmiral, who, armed with the innovative process, approached the celebrated Dutch anatomist Albinus (1697-1770) to suggest its use for his medical illustrations. Our Albinus work on the human intestine, published in 1736, is the first result of their collaboration. Albinus was mightily impressed, writing, "Words fail me to express the incredible variety of twisting of these branches [of veins and arteries], as the artist has rendered it in the plate." Choulant-Frank notes that "the picture [measuring 125 x 165 mm.] represents a piece of the muscularis mucosae of the intestine in which the arteries are injected red, but the veins blue. The representations . . . are very faithful and true to nature, even to the smallest detail." Convinced by Ladmiral's "matchless skill," Albinus retained the artist to produce additional color illustrations. For Albinus' 1737 essay on racial variation in the pigmentation of human skin, Ladmiral created a 117 x 161 mm. plate depicting the tip of an African woman's thumb, including the nail, and skin samples from her breast and heel. Ladmiral next turned to creating color illustrations of specimens created by Frederick Ruysch (1638-1731), described by Garrison-Morton as "probably the most original artist in the history of anatomical preparations." Ruysch "enjoyed making up elaborate three-dimensional emblems of mortality from his specimens," creating "fantastic, dream-like concoctions constructed of human anatomical parts." He assembled a collection of more than 2,000 anatomical, pathological, zoological, and botanical specimens, known to us now primarily through the illustrations of others, none more vivid than the saturated color mezzotints by Ladmiral. (The charming vignette of a putto displaying scientific specimens to a shocked skeleton on the title page of the four Ruysch works, also by Ladmiral, is perhaps a nod to this collection.) The first two Ruysch-Ladmiral illustrations (measuring 125-128 x 169 mm. and published in 1737 and 1738) showed convex and concave views of the dura mater in an eight-month fetus. Also in 1738 came a 129 x 169 mm. depiction of the head of the femur and tissue lining the acetabulum in the hip joint of a small boy. Finally, in 1741, Ladmiral produced the second earliest color illustration of male genitalia (following a print made ca. 1721 by Le Blon). The 205 x 252 mm. image shows a dissected penis and testicles prepared by Ruysch. To prepare his specimens for sketching, Ruysch would drain them of blood and then fill them with wax, and the title page here notes that the dissected specimen was "injecta cera praeparati." (The red area depicted in the present mezzotint is not, in fact, blood, but wax.) "Milestones in Colour Printing" notes that Ladmiral achieved this effect "by means of deeply etched grooves in his red plate, the last of the three to print." According to "Milestones," the six engravings in our series were "far more accurately printed than anything achieved by Le Blon." The process used by Ladmiral produced prints that have weathered the centuries remarkably well, and the colors on our engravings are as pleasing today as they were in the mid-18th century. Complete collections of these ground-breaking illustrations are very rare: "Heirs of Hippocrates" notes that Harvey Cushing had three of the six, Eric Waller had one, and Sir William Osler none. While ABPC and RBH list (infrequent appearances of) single works or partial sets, we could trace no complete series at auction since 1934 (in 2012, five of the six works were offered together, fetching €9,803). (ST16009)
Add to Cart Price: $45,000.00
PJP Catalog: 77.082