The Sick Rose: Or, Disease and the Art of Medical Illustration


The Sick Rose: Or, Disease and the Art of Medical Illustration by Richard Barnett

Synopsis: The Sick Rose is a visual tour through the golden age of medical illustration. The nineteenth century experienced an explosion of epidemics such as cholera and diphtheria, driven by industrialization, urbanization and poor hygiene. In this pre-color-photography era, accurate images were relied upon to teach students and aid diagnosis. The best examples, featured here, are remarkable pieces of art that attempted to elucidate the mysteries of the body, and the successive onset of each affliction. Bizarre and captivating images, including close-up details and revealing cross-sections, make all too clear the fascinations of both doctors and artists of the time. Barnett illuminates the fears and obsessions of a society gripped by disease, yet slowly coming to understand and combat it. The age also saw the acceptance of vaccination and the germ theory, and notable diagrams that transformed public health, such as John Snow’s cholera map and Florence Nightingale’s pioneering histograms, are included and explained. Organized by disease, The Sick Rose ranges from little-known ailments now all but forgotten to the epidemics that shaped the modern age. It is a fascinating Wunderkammer of a book that will enthrall artists, students, designers, scientists and the incurably curious everywhere.

Published: May 2014 | ISBN-13: 978-1938922404

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Barnett’s book showcases representations of disease before the advent of colour photography, insightfully weaving a tale of history through image. Richard Barnett is also the kind of person who will mention (in a public talk) that you tweeted him an illustration from Vesalius’s De humani corpis fabrica (1543) solely to point out that it features a skull ‘down there’ instead of a willy, but not make fun of you for it. – From 10 Great Books on the History of Medicine

British Journal of General Practice Book Review
We Make Money Not Art Book Review
The Guardian Book Review
FullScream Book Review


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