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Human Anatomy & Physiology: Specialized LIbraries

Resources on anatomical history and modern-day learning.

Special Libraries

Photo by Stanislav Kondratiev from Pexels. Image altered by Meghan Boyd, 2019.

Famous Historic Text

Illustration of muscles of a man

De humani corporis fabrica | 1543 | Andreas Vesalius

This text represented a major step forward in the study of anatomy. While not without its errors, the text presents observations of anatomical features based on human dissection. The highly detailed woodcut illustrations enabled this text to be shared far and wide, as evidenced by the over 700 copies that survive today. Read more about the significance of this text.


Read the full text translation from Northwestern University.
View full scan of a copy possessed by the University of Basel.
View select illustrations: there are numerous digitized versions, but this is a great overview.


Pictured: Page 184 of Andreas Vesalius's De humani corporis fabrica, 1543. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.


Watch the Smithsonian Libraries take a look at rare anatomy books, including De humani corporis fabrica by Andreas Vesalius in the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology.

Specialized Libraries: Not for the Faint of Heart

Summary: consulting a specialized library WILL get you some very interesting sources

  • Most specialized libraries contain valuable primary sources.
  • Librarians staffing specialized libraries may be able to help find you valuable material.
  • Specialized libraries contain often contain rare images.
  • Browsing a specialized collection can expand research goals.
  • Most specialized libraries have ongoing digitization projects.

Summary: This is usually NOT the quick and easy way.

  • Most material is not digitized.
  • It can take up to 2 weeks for librarians to retrieve material.
  • Viewing items in collection often requires an in-person visit (items are not loaned).
  • Requesting to view an item can be a lengthy process.
  • Many libraries will not permit access unless you are a researcher

Strong Medical History Collections

Strong Image Collections