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The Female Body in History - A Guide to the Becker's Holdings: Resources at the Becker

Gynecology and obstetrics is one of the key collection strengths in Archives and Rare Books. The Becker’s holdings on this topic cover a broad span of time, from the 16th to 20th centuries, and include atlases, texts, and dictionaries.


In addition to texts focusing exclusively on obstetrics and gynecology, the Becker has several beautifully illustrated anatomical atlases that include depictions of female anatomy.  Some of these works are:

Ketham, Johannes de.  The Fasciculus Medicinae of Johannes de Ketham, Alemanus : facsimile of the first (Venetian) edition of 1491.   Birmingham, Ala: The Classics of Surgery Library, 1988.  This facsimile of a fifteenth century work contains images of the traditional gravida figure, an upright living woman whose abdomen has been cut away to show the uterus.

Estienne, Charles.  La dissection des parties du corps humain diuisee en trois liures.  Imprime a Paris: chez Simon de Colines, 1546. 

Vesalius, Andreas.  De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.  Basileae: Ex officina Joannia Oporini, 1543.  Vesalius' landmark atlas does not have many illustrations of female anatomy, but the ones that are present are worth looking at.

Bidloo, Govard.  Ontleding des menschelyken lichaams.  T'Utrecht: By Jacob von Poolsum, Boekverkooper, 1743.  This work only contains a few tables showing human gestation and fetal anatomy, but was a major stylistic influence on William Hunter's obstetric atlas.

Works Published Prior to 1800

Illustration from Justine Siegemund's The Court Midwife, 1741 edition


The Becker's rare book collections cover subjects related to women's bodies and women's health from the 16th century onward.  Listed here are a few of the Becker's holdings up to 1800.

Clarke, John.  Practical essays on the management of pregnancy and labour; and on the inflammatory and febrile diseases of lying-in women.  London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1793.

Culpeper, Nicholas.  A directory for midwives, or, A guide for women in their conception, bearing, bearing, and suckling their chilfren… London: Printed for S. Ballard, 1755.

La Vaugion de.  A compleat body of chirurgical operations, containing the whole practice of surgery. London: Printed for R. Bonwick, J. Tonson, Tim. Goodwin, J. Walthoe, M. Wotton, J. Nicholson, B. Tooke, S. Manship, R. Parker, R. Smith and T. Ward, 1716.

Portal, Paul.  The compleat practice of men and women midwives: or, the true manner of assisting a woman in child-bearing.  London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1763.

Seiegemund, Justina.  Die königl. Preuszische und Chur-Brandenb. Hof-Wehe-Mutter : das ist: ein höchst nöthiger Unterricht von schweren und unrecht-stehenden Geburthen, in einem Gespräch vorgestellet.  Berlin: zu finden bey Johann Andreas Rüdinger, 1741.  (An English translation is available in the main collection)

Rösslin, Eucharius.  The birth of mankind, othervvise named The womans booke. London: Printed for A.H. and are to be sold by Iohn Morret..., 1634.

Rueff, Jakob.  De conceptu et generatione hominis.  Francofurti ad Moenum: Apud Georgium Corvinum, impensis Sigismund Feyerabendii, 1580.

White, Charles.  A treatise on the management of pregnant and lying in women, and the means of curing, but more especially of preventing the principal disorders to which they are liable. Worcester, Massachusetts: Printed by Isaiah Thomas et al., 1793.

Works Published from 1800 Onward

The Becker also holds numerous works on obstetrics and midwifery that date from the 19th century onward.  For example:

Beach, Wooster.  An improved system of midwifery : adapted to the reformed practice of medicine; illustrated by numerous plates.  New York: Jas. McAlister, 1847.  Wooster Beach is best known for founding the ecclectic medicine movement in the 19th century.  His midwifery manual is somewhat eccentric, with illustrations that are not as scientifically accurate as others, and also discusses topics such as corseting.

Gooch, Robert.  A Practical compendium of midwifery : being the course of lectures on midwifery, and on the diseases of women and infants, delivered at St. Bartholomew's Hospital .  Philadelphia: E.L. Carey & A. Hart, 1835.

Moreau, F.J.  A practical treatise on midwifery : exhibiting the present advanced state of the science.  Philadelphia: Carey & Hart, for G.N. Loomis, 1844.

Samuel, Gregory.  Man-midwifery exposed and corrected : or the employment of men to attend women in childbirth, and in other delicate circumstances, shown to be a modern innovation, unncessary, unnatural, and injurious to the physical welfare of the community, and pernicious in its influence on professional and public morality ... Boston: Published by George Gregory; New York: Fowlers and Wells, 1848.


Finding Resources

The Becker has several resources on this topic, and the works listed on this page are just a sampling.  Many works works in both rare books and the general collection can be found through our online catalog. Good keywords to search include midwifery, obstetrics, and pregnancy.  Search filters according to date and collection can be used.

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Atlases of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Listed here are some of the Becker's works that contain numerous illustrations dedicated to female anatomy, obstetrics, or pregnancy.

Spiegel, Adriaan van de.  De formato foetu liber singularis.  Patauji: Apud Io. Bap. de Martinis, & Liuiu[m] Pasquatu[m]. : Expensis eiusdem Liberalis Cremae., [1626].  This work contains beautiful copperplate engravings of pregnant women and fetuses
that were originally done by Odoardo Fialetti for Julius Casserius.

Smellie, William.  A sett of anatomical tables, with explanations, and an abridgment, of the practice of midwifery, with a view to illustrate a Treatise on that subject, and Collection of cases. London, 1754.  Smellie's work contains detailed engravings by Jan van Rymsdyk depicting the female pelvis, the position of the fetus during birth, and the proper use of the forceps.

Hunter, William.  Anatomia uteri humani gravidi: taublis illustrata.  London: Printed for the Sydenham Society, 1851.  This landmark atlas contains large, highly detailed illustrations of the gravid uterus by Jan van Rymsdyk.

Spratt, George.  Obstetric Tables.  Philadelphia: Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co., 1848.  This work by George Spratt is known for being the only English midwifery book to make use of flaps, or overlays.

Kelly, Howard A.  Operative Gynecology.  New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1898.  This two volume work contains detailed color images of various diseases of the female genitalia.