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Ramsay, A Series of Plates of the Heart, Cranium, and Brain, 1813 Second Edition



A Series of Plates of the Heart, Cranium, And Brain, In Imitation of Dissections. By Alexander Ramsay, M. D. Lecturer of Anatomy and Physiology in Edinburgh. Second Edition, Much Enlarged. Edinburgh: Printed by George Ramsay and Company, for Archibald Constable and Company, Edinburgh; and Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, London. 1813. Small folio volume rebound in the 21st century (by Vernon Wiering) in half leather binding, with black leather spine and corners, and blue paper over boards. White paper title/author label on front board. The plates were originally bound into a portfolio, with the plates sutured through to the rear board at their left edge and the final plate glued along its right edge to the board. This has been subsequently lifted from the board and has been rebound as a book rather than a portfolio. The plates are predominately clean and bright with the exception of scattered minor discoloration here and there. The tissue guards are intact though a bit wrinkled. Band of mottled discoloration along bottom edge of blank ffep and focally at bottom corner of title page. Thin band of residual adhesive and paper along fore edge of verso of final plate where it had originally been glued. Otherwise, an attractive set of plates in a handsome rebind. Colored plates illustrating the heart, central and some peripheral vasculature, the skull, and in the most detail, the brain. Several of the brain plates are overlaid with portions cut out to reveal portions of the plates below. This is organized to take the viewer of the plates progressively deeper into the brain in simulation of the process of dissecting a brain. It appears these plates were variably issued with and without 66 pages of text. We offer here the plates. Ramsay was apparently a temperamental genius who did not trust the artists of his day to render his dissections into illustrations. He also may have been involved in body trafficking (which was not uncommon in his day). He lived in the UK and the USA (notably, Maine, where this specific volume was acquired). He studied snake bites and, ironically, died from the effects of one in 1824. See Howard Atwood Kelly’s A Cyclopedia of American Medical Biography, 1912, vol 2, as well as Notes on Alexander Ramsay and His Anatomical Manuscripts by James F Ballard, January 18, 1932. Not located in Garrison-Morton, Bibliotheca Osleriana, Bibliotheca Walleriana, The Harvey Cushing Collection of Books and Manuscripts A bit of our own observation, we note that the plates of the head dissection show the body in the prone position, rather than supine. This is a nice detail as it was common in the UK and antebellum America to perform the dissection of the central nervous system with the body prone, as opposed to supine—which is the more common practice in anatomic cadaver dissection today, and almost invariably the norm for autopsy practice today.

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