‘Strabismus’ 1831. From The Complete Atlas of Human Anatomy and Surgery by Jean-Baptiste Marc Bourgery. Illustration by Nicholas Henri Jacob.
Jean-Baptiste Marc Bourgery began what would equate to his life’s work, Traité complet de l’anatomie de l’homme comprenant la médecine operatoire or The Complete Treatise or the Anatomy of Man Including Operative Medicine in 1830. A series of eight books in total, Bourgery would complete the final publication just before he died in 1849. The massive 2108-page work would finally be published in its entirety in 1853.
Though the book would not have been possible without Bourgery’s deep knowledge of surgical technique and the inner-workings of the human body, it is the color lithographs by artist Nicholas Henri Jacob, a protegee of famed French Neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David, that make the publication truly remarkable. Jacob took on the task of creating lithographs that visually depicted medical scenarios such as the surgical removal of a rifle bullet, to horrifyingly detailed images of other kinds of surgical correction performed on the genitalia or eyes.
The lithographs, 726 in all, are startlingly beautiful and to this day Bourgery’s work along with Jacob’s realistic artistic interpretations is still considered to be one of the greatest contributions to the medical world where it was often utilized by the medical community as well as by artists that incorporate aspects of anatomy into their own work. In 2005 Taschen released a 714-page version of the book with the help of two French anatomy professors, Jean-Marie Le Minor and Henri Sick, both of the Louis Pasteur University of Strasbourg. I’ve posted a large selection of Jacob’s work below—all of which are NSFW in one way or another.
‘Resection of the upper jaw.’
‘Resection of the lower jaw.’
‘Extraction of a rifle bullet.’