Edo anatomy

I recently wrote about how some of the statistics I designed for Mendeley Web vaguely reminded me of Edo period woodprints. So when I stumbled across these captivating Kaibo Zonshinzu anatomy scrolls painted in 1819, I wanted to share them with you.

Edo anatomy

Edo anatomy 2

I was fascinated by Pink Tentacle’s observation that

“Unlike European anatomical drawings of the time, which tended to depict the corpse as a living thing devoid of pain (and often in some sort of Greek pose), these realistic illustrations show blood and other fluids leaking from subjects with ghastly facial expressions.”

Indeed, I chose not to post the more gruesome depictions.

For comparison purposes, Anatomia del corpo humano from 1599:

Anatomia del corpo humano

The full collection of the Kaibo Zonshinzu anatomy scrolls can be found here for your perusal. Pink Tentacle again:

“The fact that the bodies used in scientific autopsies in Edo-period Japan generally belonged to heinous criminals executed by decapitation adds to the grisly nature of the illustrations. […] In 2003, Japan’s Ministry of Culture designated Kaibo Zonshinzu an important cultural property, saying that the scrolls, which were produced as a result of actual observation and based on Dutch scholarship, demonstrate the level of knowledge that medical science reached in the Edo period.”

Finally, another anatomic drawing which I discovered a few years ago (unfortunately, I forgot where that was). I saved it knowing that it would come in handy sometime. You may object that it is misplaced next to the masterful scholarship of the Kaibo Zonshinzu. And yet, this drawing might well save your life one day, in case the depicted subject attacks your city and you have to aim for the vital organs:


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