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This article is taken from PN Review 225, Volume 42 Number 1, September - October 2015.

Pictures from a Library (22)
Gaspare Tagliacozzi and a Poetics of Plastic Surgery
Stella Halkyard
Transport yourself back in time to the Italian city of Bologna in the year 1597, where the Professor of Anatomy and Surgery, Gaspare Tagliacozzi is publishing his magnum opus, De Curtorium Chirrurgia per Insitionem. Bound in blind-stamped vellum, this handsome folio is the last word in Renaissance book production. It has a title page that also records its author, as well as the place, and date, of its publication, just like books do now. Its pages are laid out with numbers, its illustrations are labeled and follow a scientific system, its para-textual apparatus is ostentatious and it flaunts the newly invented italic typeface created by Aldus Manutius. Yet perhaps the most remarkable thing about this book is its thoroughly modern subject matter, for De Curtorium (On the Surgery of Mutilation by Grafting) is the first book in the West to be devoted to the subject of plastic surgery.

Gaspare Taggliacozzi, De Curtorium per Institionnem (1597)

Gaspare Taggliacozzi, De Curtorium per Institionnem (1597) Permission to publish is as usual, please use the credit line ‘Copyright of the University of Manchester’.

Without anesthetics, antiseptics or antibiotics it gives a step-by-step account of the processes involved in nasal reconstruction. The illustrations in the book present the action taking place in an ordered room, cocooned in silken drapes and overlooking a felicitous landscape. The first task of the surgeon is to cut a flap of skin from the upper arm of the patient and suture it to the face whilst still attached. ...


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