The U. S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) is a world treasure, serving scientists, physicians, educators, journalists, and the lay public in many ways. Even so, it is not widely known that it is a rich source of art related to medical science. Using a technology called Turning The Pages Online, the library now makes it both possible and easy for anyone to view and download illustrations from some historic medical books that are not otherwise available.

The NLM Turning The Pages Online site allows you to unfurl The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus (the world’s oldest surviving surgical text), and to flip page by page through these beautifully illustrated books:

Robert Hooke’s Micrographia,
al-Qazwini’s Wonders of Creation,
Hanaoka Seishu’s Surgical Casebook,
Hieromymus Brunschwig’s Lier de Arte Distilland,
Conrad Gesner’s Historias Animalium,
Ambroise Pare’s Oeuvres,
Andreas Vesalius’s De Humani Corporis Fabrica, and
Johannes de Ketham’s Fasiculo de Medicina.

As you page through a book, you have several choices. You can, if you wish, examine each image in detail with a built in magnifier, open an oral explanation by curators of  the context of each, drop down a textual explanation, and print the illustration. Alternatively, instead of proceeding page by page, you can bring up a gallery of all of the images in a book.  So don’t waste another minute before checking out

http://archive.nlm.nih.gov/proj/ttp/books.htm

Following are illustrations I have selected—one from each of the books—as examples to what your aesthetic appetite. For the fun of it, I leave it to you to identify the source of each.