Published: 14-05-2010 00:00 | Updated: 26-11-2013 10:24

Läke Konst: medical books and pictures from the Middle Ages until Lennart Nilsson

[Press release 20 April 2010] From Vesalius´s muscle mannequins to Lennart Nilsson´s photographs of the microcosmos. From 16th century books om monsters and marvels to original photographs of injured soldiers from the American Civil War. Waldemarsudde and Karolinska Institutet are exhibiting medical illustrative art some of which has rarely, if ever, been on public display.

You are invited to a press showing of the exhibition

Ove HagelinPhoto: Ulf Sirborn

Waldemarsudde is showing books and pictures from the treasuries of one of the world`s leading collections of historical medical books: Karolinska Institutet`s Hagströmer Library. The library contains some 35,000 volumes and hundreds of thousands of illustrations and photographs. To coincide with Karolinska Institutet`s 200th jubilee, the finest and most fascinating pictures have been selected for display in the Läke Konst (Medical Art) exhibition, which will run from 8 May until 29 August 2010.

"What we´re putting on show to the public isn´t just our cultural heritage, it´s a medical historical world heritage," says Ove Hagelin, director of the Hagströmer Library and honorary doctor at Karolinska Institutet. "These are pictures that, in the service of the medical arts, have changed our lives as a species."

The two storeys and twelve rooms of the Läke Konst exhibition comprise illustrated books and volumes of prints from the 15th century to the present. They include hand-coloured woodcuts in 16th century herbals, 17th century anatomical atlases with magnificent copperplate engravings, microscope books from the 1700s showing the first images of objects invisible to the naked eye, and the most famous books and print collections in the history of obstetrics.

The illustrations also reflect centuries of human fascination for the aberrant. Shown here are the most famous bestiaries from the 1500s and 1600s, and 19th century hand-coloured lithographs of skin diseases, tattoos and the anatomy of the eye.

There is also a separate section dedicated to the history of medical photography, with original photographs of injured soldiers from the American Civil War, Darwin´s studies of how humans and animals express emotions, and the very first X-rays from 1896. As well, of course, as Lennart Nilsson´s celebrated photographs from inside the human body.

"Many of these magnificent volumes of prints and engravings are the finest that were ever made, even if the motifs are not always that pleasant to look at. It´s not just science," stresses Ove Hagelin, "it´s art at the highest level."

The Hagströmer Library, named after Karolinska Institutet`s first President Anders Johan Hagströmer, was founded in 1997 to look after the valuable collections held by Karolinska Institutet and the library of the Swedish Society of Medicine. The library has one of the world´s finest collections of historical medical books.

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