Books in which the primary aim of the illustration is the conveyance of contemporary medical information. Medical book illustration, despite its pragmatic uses, still deserves consideration in an art-historical context. Distinguished artists have worked in the field, and medical illustrated books can be works of art in their own right. This article is concerned primarily with the Western tradition; for information on other traditions, see under the relevant geographical and civilization survey articles.
See also Anatomical studies.
From antiquity to c. 1550, several types of medical texts were written and illustrated. Some treated medicine as a branch of learning (Aristotle’s Physica, for example, was closely allied to cosmology, meteorology, and natural philosophy); others, as a practical science, involving diagnosis, animal, and herbal remedies (see also Herbal §1), and surgery; and others, as a mixture of theory and practice. Their illustrations reflect these different functions and are equally varied....