Once I boiled the severed head of a beaver to remove the flesh and brains. I wanted a clean skull. Eventually, I gave it to a grandson. I kept photos.
If I had lived 500 years ago I might have done the same thing with similar motivation, finishing instead with a sketch or drawing.
The book “Stripped Bare, the Art of Animal Anatomy” brings our curiosity about the form and function of animals to fascinating images of myriad ways to record what we can see when when skin and flesh are removed, the uncovered body explored.
Much more than bones are shown here. This is an unusual book about anatomy by anatomist David Bainbridge.
We have always been curious and creative about bodies. The book shows a life-sized model of a sheep’s liver sculpted from rock in the 2nd century BCE (before current era). There is work by Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Durer, artists who explored body parts and bones to gain insight into the animals they drew or sculpted.
Humans were subjects of this curiosity. Skeletons and drawings of our musculature and organs live here with horses and snakes and whales.
Above all, these art works are just that, works of art. There is little in the animal world that did not catch the eye and mind of a skilled artist, someone with pen and paper, or an X-ray machine, such images included here, something the artists honored by this book pre-dated in similar detail by thousands of years.
This is an illustrated history of animal anatomy, more than 2,000 years of art offered in black and white and color on 254 pages. Text explains each illustration.
Bainbridge is University Clinical Veterinary Anatomist at the University of Cambridge in Great Britain. The book comes from from Princeton University Press, hardbound, $29.95.