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Turn the Pages of a Rare Veterinary Book from the NLM Collections!

Engraving of a horse by Nicholas Yeates (active 1669-1683) in Andrew Snape's The Anatomy of an Horse, printed in London in 1683.The National Library of Medicine has announced the release of a new Turning the Pages virtual book on its Web site, or via iPad App. The new project features selections from The Anatomy of an Horse, by Andrew Snape, farrier to King Charles II of England, and a self-described member of a dynasty of royal farriers stretching back over two centuries. Printed in London in 1683, The Anatomy of an Horse is one of the most comprehensive and beautifully illustrated books about horses published in seventeenth-century Britain. It contains numerous engravings of horses, mainly on the dissecting table, including the digestive system, heart, brain, musculature and the skeleton. Turning the Pages features a selection of these images curated by NLM staff.

Farriers were generally blacksmiths whose primary duty was making shoes for horses and applying them to the animals’ feet, but they often took on other tasks in horse care as well, including treating illnesses such as the glanders (a common equine sinus infection), the botts (a parasite), or lameness. They also applied surgical remedies for horses such as purgatives and bloodletting. Farriers were usually illiterate tradespeople, who learned their craft through an apprenticeship and “practiced” in the military’s cavalry, on a gentleman’s estate, or in a village or town.  Until the prevalence of the automobile, horses were some of the most important animals to humans, providing transportation, battle power, and heft. Horses were often the most valuable possession of a middle class family, and were considered a powerful symbol of prestige among the wealthy, nobility, and gentry.

Launched at the NLM in 2001, Turning the Pages is part of an ongoing collaboration between research engineers at the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications, and curators and historians at the NLM’s History of Medicine Division, to help make its rare and unique history of medicine materials widely available to the public. The NLM holds one of the world’s largest collections of early books relating to veterinary medicine dating before the year 1800.

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