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Osteographia, or The Anatomy of the Bones

William Cheselden, 1733

William Cheselden (1688-1792), a surgeon at St. Thomas’s Hospital, was one of the outstanding teachers of anatomy in London during the first half of the 18th century. Osteographia, his third book, contains 56 large plates of human bones displayed in their natural size and 44 comparative anatomy vignettes of animal skeletons representing the first accurate delineations of some of the species shown.

While the book was inspired by the skeleton plates in Vesalius’s De fabrica, Cheselden noted that some of Vesalius’s illustrations were imprecise in their details. Cheselden was the first person to use the camera obscura to create detailed illustrations. Few copies of this anatomy were sold, and in order to recuperate losses many of the sets were broken up and the plates sold separately. As a result, complete copies of the work are rare.


Large folio, rebacked with modern leather that has failed at the joints. The textblock is in excellent condition, both the paper and the sewing; the endsheets are made of a paper that is more modern and brittle. Recommendation: reback using new goatskin, mend hinges with Japanese paper.