Scroll (315 x 13,495 mm.), including gold-speckled front inner endpaper & silk outside, with gold paper label bearing the inscription “Heijiro zozu.” [Japan: ca. 1783].
An important record of the most famous of all early human dissections to take place in Japan; these dissections materially changed the Japanese knowledge of human anatomy. Our scroll is one of several prepared after the dissection of Heijiro, a convicted criminal, aged 40. The procedure took place in 1783 at Fushimi, south of Kyoto, and was overseen by the physician and scholar Nankei Tachibana (1753-1806). The chief artist was Ranshu Yoshimura. Genshun Koishi (1743-1808), a physician interested in Western medicine, also attended the autopsy and wrote explanations, using many anatomical terms from the famous Kaitai Shinsho [A New Work in Anatomy & Dissection] (1st ed.: 1774), “a milestone in the history of medicine, and particularly of anatomy, in Japan, marking as it did the transition from the traditional Chinese medical teachings to the period when medical knowledge (anatomy) was to be based strictly upon human dissection and when anatomical inferences were to be confirmed ‘in the flesh,’ so to speak. Kaitai shinsho was the first Japanese translation of a Western anatomical work.”–Mestler, “A Galaxy of Old Japanese Medical Books,” Part I, p. 311.
The paintings in this scroll are refined, detailed, and well colored. Many of the scenes contain contemporary notes of the names of the organ or bone, function, weight, description of color and texture, etc. There are several references to the Kaitai Shinsho.
Our first scene shows a detailed view of the head and a cross-section of the neck where the decapitation took place. Each significant part of the anatomy has been labeled. This is followed by an anterior view of the decapitated body, with a note giving the criminal’s first name, Heijiro (last name unknown), and with a comment that he was executed for repeated thefts. Then we have a frontal view of the body, with his private parts covered. There is a note that one of his nipples is missing due to an injury.
Next is a depiction of the opened chest with muscles exposed and skin peeled back. Heijiro’s pubic hair is evident. The following image depicts the ribcage split open with the lungs and diaphragm visible. Next is a lung that has been removed from the body and inflated using a bamboo stem. The lobes of the lung are clearly depicted with notes. Then we see the lower abdomen peeled open and exposed. The accompanying notes very clearly describe the coloration of each part of the anatomy.
This is followed by a splendid view of the entire chest and abdomen exposed with the organs still in place. The sexual organs have been removed.
Next we see the tip of the penis and a cross-section of the testicles. Then there are two very dramatic views — front and back — of various organs (lungs, diaphragm, liver, spleen, gall bladder, intestines, kidney, and bladder), all hanging from a bamboo rod, in magnificent color.
Now we see the emptied chest cavity, exposing the skeletal frame. Following this is an anterior view with the flesh of the back and one leg removed, exposing muscle and bones. The leg has been amputated beneath the knee. Next we see the leg dissected, showing the femur, patella, tibia, and fibula. There is a small and fine illustration of the kneecap. Then we have a dramatic portrayal of the hip joint and femur.
The following images are dissections of the hand and foot, from the top and from the bottom. There are further images of cross-sections of the thigh, views of the lung, heart and liver with gall bladder, spleen, kidneys (all with many dissected views), etc. The notes include details of the weights, features, and coloring of the various organs: for instance, the lungs are deep blue with innumerable bronchioles and weigh about 522 grams. The heart is presented in five images: from the notes we learn it weighs 320 grams and the interior is red in color (“like adzuki beans”).
Now we proceed to the head: we see the various stages of its dissection, including the head including the face after removal of the skin, the jawbones with teeth, many views of the skull, brain, eyeballs, tongue in various stages of dissection, etc. The removed scalp has been reversed, revealing the roots of the hair follicles. The following images are of the spine, the hip bone, stomach, pancreas (in Dutch, klier, here called kiriiru, taken from the Kaitai Shinsho), large and small intestines, etc. The length of the entire intestinal system is given (ca. 7.5 meters) and its weight (3375 grams). The notes reveal that Heijiro had tapeworms.
Each illustration has accompanying contemporary notes.
Fine condition. The beginning and end of the scroll are a little soiled and spotted. Occasional minor marginal worming. Preserved in a modern wooden box with a chitsu.
Item ID: 8671