The nineteenth century saw an explosion of experimental new ways to visualise the (normal and pathological) body in two and three dimensions; from the detachable wooden model of a man by the Florentine naturalist Felice Fontana to projections of the beating heart in lecture theatres in the 1890s. The essay investigates one of these experiments of anatomical representation, the “living encyclopaedia” developed and marketed by the French physician Dr. Felix Thibert in the 1830s and 40s. Thibert produced plaster casts of pathological lesions, both of the body’s surface and its interior. These plaster reliefs were coloured, and stored in book-shaped boxes, accompanied by the deceased patients’ case histories. Such collections, Thibert argued, would provide even the provincial or colonial practitioner with access to every known disease. The paper will explore how Thibert’s encyclopaedia relates to other objects of the period, from books to collections of casts and other types of anatomical models. The analysis will highlight Thibert’s strategies for combining text and object, and for turning individual patients’ cases into universal examples.
The seminar will commence at 11:30am in room 005, 48/49 Old Elvet, Durham. Refreshments will be available from 11:00am with the talk commencing at 11:30am.
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