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Tabulae anatomicae (1722), by Bartolomeo Eustachi

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Tabulae anatomicae
Bartolomeo Eustachi
Amstelaedami, 1722

Remembered today for his remarkable descriptions and study of the auditory or Eustachian tube, Bartolomeo Eustachi (1520?-1574) was also a skilled anatomist and illustrator equal to Vesalius. Born in San Severino, Eustachi spent the majority of his professional life in Rome as a professor of anatomy as well as physician to the Pope and the Duke of Urbino. In addition to the Eustachian tube, Eustachi also discovered the thoracic duct, provided the first accurate illustration of the uterus, described the muscles of the throat, and the origin of the optic nerves.

In 1552, with the intent of publishing a text on anatomy, Eustachi and Pier Matteo Pini completed drawings and supervised the creation of copperplate engravings done by Guilio de’Musi. However, Eustachi only completed descriptive text for eight of the 38 plates; thus these eight became the only illustrations published during his lifetime. Upon Eustachi’s death, all published and unpublished plates passed to Pini and were eventually deposited in the Vatican Library. One hundred and fifty years later papal physician Giovanni Maria Lancisi (1654-1720) discovered Eustachi’s plates in the Vatican. Lancisi added his own narrative to those plates that did not have a commentary by Eustachi and published the work in 1714 as Tabulae anatomicae.

While from an artistic viewpoint the plates were perhaps not as well done as those of Vesalius, on the anatomy side they are actually more accurate. Eustachi surrounded each plate on three sides with a ruled graduated border. This border provided reference numbers to each anatomical section, much as latitude and longitude define points on a map. Thus Eustachi could portray his figures without superimposed lettering or numbering.

Title page dissection scene

When one considers the title page dissection scene, the 47 plates, and the capital letters containing pastoral and hunting scenes, Tabulae anatomicae ranks as a superior anatomical atlas. Most historians agree that had Eustachi published this work during his lifetime, he would now rank with Vesalius as one of the founders of modern anatomical studies.

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