GLISSON, Francis.

GLISSON, Francis. Anatomia hepatis.

Amsterdam, apud Joannem Janssonium & Elizaeum Weyerstraten, 1665


12mo, pp. (xlviii), 423, (xxi). Roman and italic letter, woodcut floriated initials, tailpiece. Printer’s device to t-p, attractive engraved frontispiece depicting a dissection theatre, two folding anatomical plates illustrating the liver, 10 1/8 to half-page anatomical woodcuts in text. Light age yellowing, tiny tear to upper blank margin of frontispiece, printed title very lightly soiled with stamp of the French physician Joseph-Marie-Jules Parrot (1829–1883), fore margin of 2 ll. slightly waterstained, old repair to blank verso of last, endpapers renewed. A very good copy, crisp and clean, in contemporary calf, outer corners and spine repaired, spine with raised bands, gilt title label and ornaments in compartments, a.e. sprinkled red.

A very good copy of this ground-breaking work on the anatomy and function of the liver by Glisson, containing the “first accurate description of the capsule of the liver (Glisson’s capsule) and its blood-supply. (…) a detailed account of a single organ based on original research” (Garrison-Morton). Here, the third edition (first 1654), ‘nova et emendatior’ (new and most correct).

‘Anatomia Hepatis’ is the first major modern work on hepatology and “the most important treatise thus far on the physiology of the digestive system” (Heirs of Hippocrates). After the first section, dealing with general anatomy, there are 45 chapters entirely dedicated to the liver, whose function was a hotly debated topic in the 17th century physiological discourse. In this volume, Glisson gives the first thorough description of the hepatic anatomy, and in particular of the fibrous capsule which bears his name, but also the first and very detailed presentation of the sphincter of the bile duct (sphincter of Oddi). “Anatomia hepatis” was the result of Glisson’s personal dissections and experimentations. Remarkably, he observed and illustrated the hepatic structures through innovative methods, such as the injection of tinted liquids and the use of casts. The two beautifully engraved folding plates show casts of the portal vein and the intrahepatic vessels. Glisson was also able to deduce “the flow of blood through the portal veins transversing the capillaries into the vena cava at a time when no microscopic studies of the liver had been done” (Jarnagin).

Interestingly, the volume includes, in chapter xxxi, an account of the discovery of the lymphatics by the British George Joyliffe (1621-58). Joycliffe observed the lymphatic system independently of Bartholin and Rudbeck in 1652, and communicated his results to Glisson, who was his professor at Cambridge.

A British anatomist, physician and physiologist, Francis Glisson (1597-1677) was born in Rampisham (Dorset). After graduating from Cambridge in 1617, he obtained another MA at Oxford in 1627 and then an MD at Cambridge in 1637. Two years later, he was appointed regius professor of Medicine at Cambridge. He held this post for 40 years until his death, but with limited teaching responsibilities, as he moved to Colchester and then to London, where he established a successful medical practice. Glisson was also a founding member of the Royal Society and president of the Royal College of Physicians of London.

Garrison-Morton 972 (1st ed); Heirs of Hippocrates 299 (1st ed). Not in USTC, Brunet, Graesse, this ed. not in Bibl. Osleriana. W.R. Jarnagin, Blumgart’s Surgery of the Liver, Pancreas and Biliary Tract (2012)
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