Past Event

Colored Printed Illustrations in Medical Publications 1500-1850

October 18, 2018
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Event time is displayed in your time zone.
New York Academy of Medicine, 1216 Fifth Avenue, New York

The works by Jacques-Fabien Gautier-Dagoty (1716–1785) are often considered to be the first anatomical color prints. However, hundreds of medical illustrations were actually printed in color in the preceding two centuries. Color in illustrations is rarely recorded in library catalogs or by book historians; art historical studies focus on single-sheet color prints, and studies in the history of medicine rarely consider the implication of color in illustrations. In these years, the same producers of printed materials used the same color processes for artistic prints and medical illustrations. Thus, this growing corpus can be identified and understood only using an interdisciplinary approach encompassing printmaking processes, art history, the history of the book and the history of medicine. 

This talk represents Dr. Ad Stijnman’s preliminary findings of systematic page-by-page analysis of tens of thousands of early modern (1450–1850) scientific publications. Concentrating on material produced in middle and Western Europe enables the exploration of how changing technologies determined the application of color. It traces the development of the role of color in medical illustrations from mere decorative use in sixteenth-century woodcuts to the identification of diseases by naturalistic coloring. Standardized uses of color emerged in eighteenth-century etchings and mezzotints, for example, the depiction of arteries in red and veins in blue, but also that there were alternative color codes. In doing so, it lays out a new methodology for object-based, interdisciplinary research into book illustrations. 

Dr. Ad Stijnman (PhD University of Amsterdam, Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in London) is a scholar for historical printmaking processes, specializing in manual intaglio printmaking techniques. He has lectured and published widely on the subject, including his seminal Engraving and Etching 1400–2000: A History of the Development of Manual Intaglio Printmaking Processes (2012), for which he was awarded the Karel van Manderprijs 2015 for outstanding Dutch art historical publications. Together with Elizabeth Savage he co-edited Printing Colour 1400–1700: History, Techniques, Functions and Receptions (2015), which was awarded an honorable mention for best books on prints by the IFPDA in 2016. His curatorial activities include exhibitions on medieval prints, early modern color prints and Rembrandt etchings on Japanese paper. He has collaborated with the Making and Knowing Project, a research cluster within the Center for Science and Society. 

This event is free and open to the public but registration is required via EventBrite. For more information, please visit the event webpage

This event is co-hosted by the New York Academy of Medicine Library and The Guild of Book Workers, New York Chapter.