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Bookfind of The Century

In 2007 a retired Canadian doctor paid $14,256 for a well-used second edition of Andreas Vesalius' De humani corporis fabrica, one of the most influential books in history. Only 150 copies are known.

De humani corporis fabrica by Andreas Vesalius
De humani corporis fabrica | Christie's

As The Met wrote of its own copy of the book: "When Andreas Vesalius (1514 - 1564) first published his radical De humani corporis fabrica (On the Structure of the Human Body), the ancient texts of Aristotle and Galen were still judged authoritative in the medical schools of Europe. By performing his own dissections, Vesalius discovered errors in the ancient authors' teachings. The De humani corporis fabrica, which drew attention to these flaws, initially threatened the academic medical establishment but ultimately won Vesalius admiration and a post as court physician to Charles V, to whom he dedicated the volume."

His magnum opus was published prior to his thirtieth birthday and speaks volumes for the genius of Vesalius, who was born in Brussels (and originally called Andries van Wezel), and later became a professor at the University of Padua from 1537 - 1542. Although his work is now regarded as the foundation of modern human anatomy, he faced some vehement opposition from the medical establishment, as he was questioning everything that came before. Skepticism is now part of the scientific method, but at that time, it was not.

The book changed not just anatomy, but medicine in general and most importantly, how it was taught. The design, typography and detailed cutaway drawings of the human body used in the book helped advance teaching by 1,500 years.

Sold during an online Christie's auction on Friday, the book purchased in 2007 for $14,256, fetched a whopping $2,228,000.

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