HEROARD, Jean Hippostologie, c’est a dire, discours des os du cheval

Paris, Mamert Patisson, 1599


FIRST EDITION. 4to. ff. (iv), 23, (i). a A-F . Roman letter, preface in Italic, some Greek. Foliated woodcut initials and headpieces, engraved architectural title page, with royal arms of Henry IV at head, with his Monogram H at sides, horses at base of columns, six large engravings in text, plus one full page of the complete horse skeleton, early manuscript shelf mark on fly. Light age yellowing, very light marginal spotting, the odd mark or spot. A very good copy, crisp clean on thick paper and with good margins, excellent impressions of the plates, in contemporary vellum over thin paste boards, remains of ties.

Extremely rare and important first, and only, edition of this treatise on the anatomy of the horse, beautifully illustrated with seven exceptional engraved plates by J de Weert, some of the finest and most accurate engravings of horse anatomy of the C16th. This work describes the anatomy of the horse in great detail and with great rigor. The engravings are of such detail that it is even possible to make out the joints of the skull, which are abundantly described.

Remarkably it was the first work dealing specifically with horse anatomy published in France; the only other to touch on the subject was the translation into French of Vegetius’ work on horses of 1563, which, whilst dealing with the horse in general, barely touched on its anatomy, not even distinguishing between bovine and equine. Heroard wrote the work in 1579 and the manuscript was preserved in the library of Château de Chantilly, but it was not published until 1599, a year after the publication in Italy of Carlo Runi’s celebrated ‘L’Anatomia del Cavallo’. Heroard was not aware of Runi’s work.

Heroard, a doctor, was given the title of ‘Médecin en l’Art vétérinaire’ in 1574, the first in France, before becoming physician to Charles IX. He most probably owed this role to the passion that Charles IX had for hunting and horses, and the king’s determination to raise the standard of veterinary medicine, particularly in respect to horses. In his dedication to Henry IV, Heroard justifies his project by arguing for the benefits of presenting farriers with a horse anatomy written in French that they would be able to understand. He also implies Charles IX’s instigation who took “un singulier plaisir à ce qui est de l’art Vétérinaire, duquel le subject principal est le corps du Cheval”. It is probable that the work was intended as the forerunner to a much larger treatise on the anatomy of the horse or a full ‘Traite de tout l’art Veterinaire’ that never appeared.

Heroard’s training was in medicine, and wherever applicable he used the language of human anatomy to describe that of the horse. Forced to invent new terms that were specific to the horse, he initiated the vocabulary of equine anatomy in France. The work was overshadowed by Runi’s anatomy and later ignored. However its importance in the history of veterinary science has now been recognized. “L’étude approfondie de l’Hippostologie d’Héroard montre que celui-ci mérite une place de choix dans l’histoire de l’anatomie vétérinaire. Il est le premier à avoir décrit un squelette entier de cheval en se fondant sur l’étude directe sur squelette. Il fut le premier à donner aux os du cheval des noms français raisonnés.” Aurélien Jeandel “Jean Herouard premiere ‘Veterinaire Francais’. A very good copy of this beautifully illustrated and important work.

BM STC Fr. C16th p. 223. Renouard 192:1. Mortimer French 273. Mennessier de la Lance I p. 617. “Ouvrage assez rare”. Brian J Ford. “Images of Science. A History of Scientific Illustration.” p. 78.

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