Our blog header comes from the second edition of Illustrations of dissections: in a series of coloured plates the size of life, representing the dissection of the human body published in 1876. This atlas is available for consultation in the Medical Library. The drawings are from nature by the South African natural history illustrator George Henry Ford from dissections performed by Professor George Viner Ellis.
The relatively new technique of chromolithography was used for the imperial folio atlas of fifty-eight plates. The plates were drawn between 1863 and 1867, with between four and seven completed each year. The graphically lifelike drawings show exactly how the dissected body has been manipulated.
George Viner Ellis was Professor of Anatomy at University College London and was one of the great names of the world of anatomy in England, having given all his working life to the study and teaching of this discipline.
During its first thirty-five years of existence, University College London published a large number of anatomical atlases. Ellis carried on this tradition by collaborating with Ford to produce some of the best anatomical artwork ever published.
During Ellis’ tenure the University College London was regarded as the pre-eminent centre for the study of anatomy, its spacious and well-lit dissecting room approved of by both staff and students. The College was fortunate in acquiring and retaining the services of an anatomist of Ellis’ stature – his culture, zeal, and energy were legendary – receiving only a moderate salary and with no prospect of career improvement. In Ellis’ day cadavers were not treated with any preservatives so they were often in an advanced state of putrefaction, limiting dissection to the winter months.
The Medical Library Team