Making of Mr. Gray's Anatomy: Bodies, Books, Fortune, Fame


When Gray's Anatomy appeared in 1858, the book rapidly became not just a bestseller, but the standard work. Indeed, Gray's Anatomy is the only textbook of human anatomy continuously in print for the last 150 years. The Making of Gray's Anatomy tells the fascinating story of this remarkable book. Providing a wealth of historical context, Ruth Richardson examines both the mid-Victorian medical world in which Henry Gray and the brilliant illustrator Henry Vandyke Carter operated and the vigorous publishing industry ...

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The Making of Mr Gray's Anatomy: Bodies, books, fortune, fame

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When Gray's Anatomy appeared in 1858, the book rapidly became not just a bestseller, but the standard work. Indeed, Gray's Anatomy is the only textbook of human anatomy continuously in print for the last 150 years. The Making of Gray's Anatomy tells the fascinating story of this remarkable book. Providing a wealth of historical context, Ruth Richardson examines both the mid-Victorian medical world in which Henry Gray and the brilliant illustrator Henry Vandyke Carter operated and the vigorous publishing industry in London at that time. Along the way, Richardson explores the scientific and cultural life of the medical school dissecting room and dead house, as well as the lives of those whose corpses ended up on the slab. The very different personalities and life-stories of Gray and Carter emerge in the telling, as do those of their publishers, and the many other individuals who were involved in the making of the book itself. Indeed, The Making of Gray's Anatomy investigates the entire production process—from the book's conception in 1855 to its reception by the medical press in 1858—via typesetters, wood-engravers, steam printers, paper and printing-ink suppliers, paper-folders, stitchers and bookbinders.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this, the 150th anniversary of the original publication of Gray's Anatomy, Richardson, a scholar of the history of science, relates how this classic came into being. Richardson does a creditable job of explaining how two young doctors, Henry Gray and Henry Vandyke Carter, teamed together to create an anatomy manual better than any available for students in surgery. Their version had better and larger drawings (in fact, their size, which contributed to the book's success, was an accident: the illustrations were meant to be 25% smaller), simpler text and a very successful integration of surgical techniques with anatomical features. Richardson also impressively reviews the technicalities of scientific publication in the mid-19th century. Far less successful is the analysis of the two men behind Gray's Anatomy. With little pertinent material extant, Richardson is left to surmise with a plethora of "perhaps" and "probably." Conversations between the two authors, between Gray and his publisher, and between the publisher and the printer are simply manufactured. Nonetheless, Richardson uses Gray's Anatomy as a springboard to present an interesting slice of scientific history. Illus. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Philip W. Leon, PhD (The Citadel)
Description: This splendid book tells how Gray's Anatomy became an essential part of medical history. It answers some important questions: Who was Henry Gray, and what qualified him to write the textbook that bears his name? Who was Henry Vandyke Carter who illustrated the original Gray's Anatomy? Also, because the textbook was a milestone in medical publishing when it appeared 150 years ago, we learn of the labor-intensive process of producing a book in the nineteenth century.
Purpose: This book addresses these specific questions, but along the way it informs us about life in London in the 1850s and the conditions in which medical students learned about anatomy. Although Gray's Anatomy revealed no new concepts or reversals of existing knowledge of anatomy, the form of presentation and the clarity of the illustrations immediately placed it in the forefront of anatomical texts. The author amply succeeds in her objectives to present the biographies of the writer and the illustrator and their often fractious relationship.
Audience: Anyone interested in medical history will find this book informative and entertaining. All medical professionals, particularly surgeons, will appreciate the first-rate research and the elegant presentation. Scholars of nineteenth century, no matter what discipline, will profit from reading about the society that enabled Gray's Anatomy to succeed as a publishing venture.
Features: This book reveals little-known facts about Gray. He could be charming and brilliant but also self-serving and reluctant to acknowledge the assistance of others. He was not an MD, although this is not surprising because most apothecary-surgeons were not university trained physicians. Gray died at age 34, three years after the publication of his book in 1858. Henry Vandyke Carter, who was an MD, allowed Gray to minimize Carter's contributions. Carter married a woman of questionable moral character who made his life miserable. Also interesting is the commitment of the publisher to make Gray's Anatomy the standard in the field. When production problems arose, the publisher, J.W. Parker & Son, of West Strand, London, threw all of its resources into sustaining the project.
Assessment: This is one of the best books on medical history that I have seen. The author lovingly assembles her material, each page's typography, art, and arrangement emulating the care with which Gray's Anatomy was created. This is a superb contribution to medical history and belongs in every university library.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199570287
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/2/2009
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Ruth Richardson is Senior Visiting Research Fellow in History at the University of Hertfordshire at Hatfield; Affiliated Scholar in the History of Science at the University of Cambridge; and Society of Apothecaries Examiner and Lecturer in the History of Medicine.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1 WORDS: Mr Gray of Belgravia 5
2 IMAGES: Dr Carter of Scarborough 35
3 ENTERPRISE: J W Parker C & Son of West Strand 60
4 IDEA: Person or Persons Unknown 93
5 RAW MATERIAL: The Friendless Poor of London 117
6 CREATION: 1856-1857 140
7 PRODUCTION: 1857-1858 168
8 PUBLICATION: 1858 and on 201
9 CALAMITY: 1860-1861 229
10 FUTURITY: After 1861 255 Appendices 265 Notes & References 169 Index 307
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Interesting but very academic!

    My book club selected this read and I would not have finished it had it not been a club pick. It was interesting to hear about how Grey's came about, but after the initial idea, it was too academic to hold my interest. Granted, I have no med school background and the topic is totally over my head as a general reader. I would recommend this only as a read a medical-type might want to take on. Not for the general reader. I had hoped it would be written more in the style of The Professor and the Madman, which is about the writing of the Oxford English Dictionary, but it is not. Much more academic and dry.

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