Comparative Guts

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1682 Specimen Medicinae Sinicae, unknown artist

This “Viscera Man” was also based on a Chinese source (Image 1) but was printed in the 1682 Specimen Medicinae Sinicae. The anonymous artist retained the Chinese original’s flat rendering (Image 1) rather than the three-dimensional rendering of Christian Mentzel’s sketch (Image 3) and the sketch (Image 4) in the Specimen’s only extant manuscript (Ms. Lat. Fol. 95), which is preserved in the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin.

This sketch of the “Viscera Man” is included in the printed Specimen Medicinae Sinicae (1682), the first translation into Latin of Chinese medical texts. The anonymous artist retained the flat rendering of the Chinese original rather than the three-dimensional rendering found in the Specimen’s  only extant manuscript (image 4), which is preserved, along with the printed version (fig. 5), in the Staatsbibliothek of Berlin. The Latin phrases – parva intestina and magna intestina as also in image 4 – clearly designate the cloud-like formations across the abdomen as the small and large intestines, respectively. They are situated between the stomach (stomachus)  above and bladder (ureteres)  below. No other Latin phrases here further define the guts suggesting a straightforward one-to-one translation uncomplicated by the bureaucratic or hydraulic metaphors present in the Chinese original drawings of the “viscera man” (images 1, 2).