Animated Anatomies

Exhibit weaves together the history of medical instruction and the art of bookmaking

A new Duke Libraries exhibition explores the age-old, visually engrossing genre of scientific literature known as anatomical flap books.

The exhibition, "Animated Anatomies: The Human Body in Anatomical Texts from the 16th to 21st Centuries," weaves together the history of science, medical instruction and the intricate art of bookmaking. Divided between the Perkins Library gallery and the gallery at Duke Medical Center Library, the exhibition is on display through July 18.

An opening reception will take place at 10 a.m. Monday, April 18, at the Medical Center Library, followed by a 1-6 p.m. symposium in Perkins Library with scholars in the fields of medicine, history and medical history. Both events are free and open to the public.

The exhibition is curated by Valeria Finucci, a Duke Romance studies professor and director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Duke, and Maurizio Rippa-Bonati, historian of medicine and professor at the University of Padua in Italy.

"Flap books illustrate bodies immersed in the intellectual, aesthetic, technological, philosophical, gendered, even religious culture of the time in which they were produced," said Finucci. "They allow for a material reading of their medical content. In the interchange between the doctor/anatomist and the illustrator/technician, the body parts that emerge acquire a life, and a beauty, of their own."

Anatomical flap books take their name from the layers of moveable paper flaps that can be lifted from the page to reveal something underneath, similar to pop-up books for children. Originally designed as instructional tools, flap books mimic the act of human dissection and allowed early physicians to study the intricacies of the human body normally hidden to the eye.

To learn more about the exhibition, visit the "Animated Anatomies" website,