Browse Exhibits (2 total)

Medical, Chirurgical, and Anatomical Cases and Experiments; communicated by Dr. Haller (1758)



Medical, Chirurgical and Anatomical Cases and Experiments by Dr. Albrecht von Haller is a collection of medical cases and experiments put together by the Royal-Academy of Sciences at Stockholm in 1758. In additional to reports of interesting medical cases and experiments by various physicians of the time, the book also includes copper plates accompanying some of these accounts, which provide an interesting perspective of the understanding of the medical field at the time. In total, the volume consists of 31 different cases reported to the Royal-Academy of Science at Stockholm and an additional 14 experiments.  The cases range from extraordinary accounts of worms exiting a woman’s ulcer to practical everyday accounts of children suffering from small stature or potential treatments for mental illness. The unique nature of these cases is reminicent of earlier categorizationof the wonders and unexpected works of nature. 

The main author of this text, Dr. Albrecht von Haller, was a Swiss scientist, who is considered by many as the father of experimental physiology and contributed greatly to the medical field with his encyclopedia, Elementa Physiologiae Corporis Humani.[1]The text played the unique role of sharing and circulating medical findings before this became more commonplace in popular journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine in the United States or The Lancet in the UK about a half century later. It is clear tht even at this point the importance of reporting and shairng knowledge of unique medical cases and natures role in the human body was important. This book remains an interesting source and view of early medical case study.

Bibliographic Informaion of the Text: 

Haller, Albrecht von. Medical, Chirurgical and Anatomical Cases and Experiments Communicated by Dr. Haller, and Other Eminent Physicians, to the Royal-Academy of Sciences at Stockholm. Translated from the Swedish Original. Illustrated with Copper Plates. London: printed for A. Linde, P. Davey and B. Law, and J. Staples, 1758.

[1] “Albrecht von Haller | Biography - Swiss Biologist,” Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed April 13, 2015,


Peterborough Bestiary

The Peterborough Bestiary is a fascinating manuscript that was created around the beginning of the 14th century. The Bestiary was written and illustrated by an unknown, yet recognizable through other works, scribe who was likely a person of high ranking in the Peterborough cathedral.[1] The manuscript, which is actually a compilation of two well-known works that describe animals, Physiologus, dating from the 2nd century, and Isidore of Seville’s multi-volume Etymologiae, dating from the 7th century, was likely created for someone else of high ranking in the church.[2] Bestiaries were pieces that were compiled written around the High Middle Ages, all serving the relatively similar purpose of depicting and describing a wide variety of different animals. This bestiary in particular is noted for the over 100 incredibly ornate illustrations of animals.

A great deal can be observed from the Peterborough Bestiary in regards to nature and knowledge. As a bestiary, the manuscript serves as a great example of knowledge of physical nature from the time it was created. The sheer volume of different animals that are both described and depicted is impressive. However, many animals are given fantastical qualities, and both real and mythological animals were depicted, with no separation between the two. This lack of understanding which animals were real and which were not indicates limits to the knowledge of physical nature from the time this bestiary was created. Arguably more important than physical nature, however, was the knowledge of moral nature. Many of the qualities of animals were linked to or justified by biblical passages. These animal qualities were often considered either positive qualities that follow in the way of Jesus, or negative qualities that embody the Devil. In short, these spiritual reflections in the bestiary, which occur on both real and mythical creatures, are unique and can be interpreted as proxy behaviors for how mankind should act, and present a fascinating view on knowledge of moral nature at the time. An argument can even be made that these spiritual behavoirs of animals provided justification for many that the physical world itself was goverened by the Word of God and the Bible. The Peterborough Bestiary can thus be seen as a manuscript that embodies and blends both flawed knowledge of physical nature and deeper knowledge of moral nature.

[1]Lucy Freeman Sandler (cont.), and Christopher De Hamel and Hans Zotter (trans.),  Aus Peterborough = The Peterborough Bestiary : Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, Parker Library, MS 53 (fol. 189-210). Commentary on the Facsimile Edition, part i. (Stuttgart: Faksimile Verlag Luzern, 2003), 24.

[2] Ibid., 28.