The Courtiers’ Anatomists

The Courtiers’ Anatomists explores the role of dissection and of animals in the development of experimental methods in seventeenth-century science in the city of Paris between 1643 and 1715.  Science was embedded in other cultural pursuits because the same people practiced science, architecture, art, music, and literature simultaneously and Paris contributed to the birth of many of these cultural markers of modernity.  The royal court of Louis XIV exercised control of cultural production by means of its patronage, but this was never total. The courtiers and anatomists who depended on the crown were not simply those in attendance at court, and they cannot easily be labelled as “ancients” or “moderns.” The other individuals in this book are animals. This study documents the enormous role of animals in the birth of the experimental method as well as in natural history and the reconfiguration of the human and animal body.  Dissection can claim to be the most widespread and significant scientific activity of the era, and Paris became its epicenter. Anatomy and natural history formed two sides of the same coin: one could not take place without the other.  Dissection evolved into a practice distinct both from medicine and from ancient philosophies, and natural history increasingly emphasized direct observation, while maintaining earlier emphases on  textual knowledge.  Both were driven, moreover, by a curiosity that would not easily be satisfied until everything possible was known about the human and animal body.

Publishers’ website: 

Book launch video:

Interview on the New Books Network:

Quotes from reviewers:

Carla Nappi | New Books in History
“In Guerrini’s hands, the history of science and medicine in early modern Paris was simultaneously a history of fairy tales and opera, dogs and chameleons, artists and knife-makers, labyrinth-making and oratory. It is a fascinating book that is a must-read for historians of anatomy and of early modern science and medicine, and will be accessible and gripping for readers well beyond those fields.”
E. C. Spary, University of Cambridge
“Guerrini ably shows how anatomy emerged as a science within the institutional and courtly spaces of Louis XIV’s France. Her beautifully illustrated and richly woven account explores the relationship between the emerging fashion for dissection and the mechanical philosophy, showing how and why dead bodies were enrolled into the wider transformation of European learning in the seventeenth century. Navigating between the pan-European Republic of Letters which made and disseminated new anatomical knowledge, and the promise and constraints of courtly patronage, Guerrini displays an assured grasp of her subject.”
Domenico Bertoloni Meli, Indiana University
“Guerrini’s research has uncovered a wealth of information on the key figures of the time and their endeavors, from the early contacts among Jean Pecquet, Adrien Auzout, and Blaise Pascal, to the lecturing style of Joseph-Guichard Duverney. The Courtiers’ Anatomists provides by far the most detailed account of the French anatomists’ researches, relying on a subtle and far-reaching analysis of extensive manuscript sources ranging from the reports of the French Académie to Duverney’s handwritten notes.”
Kathleen Wellman, Southern Methodist University
“The history of seventeenth-century French science has suffered considerable neglect. Both the richness and the complexity of Guerrini’s The Courtiers’ Anatomists suggest why this is so: the context she explores requires both a mastery of the intellectual tradition throughout history and a deep familiarity with the sciences and scientific practices across Europe. Guerrini deftly weaves a complex history of many interconnected traditions, grounded in French professional and familial networks, court practices, and patronage. Thoroughly incorporating the natural sciences into the Scientific Revolution, The Courtiers’ Anatomists offers an important amplification of our understanding of scientific practices in the early modern period.”

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