Klinische Abbildungen.

(Clinical Illustrations)

A collection of portrayals of changes to the outer corporeal form by internal disease.

Issued by Doktor Heinrich Curschmann,

In association with Dr. W. Schüffner, assistant physician at the Medical Clinic in Leipzig.

Berlin: Julius Springer, 1894.

Translated from the German and presented here with its extraordinary 57 photogravures. In his review of this compilation the medical historian Edgar Goldschmid noted:

The plates are beautiful crisp heliogravures manufactured by Meisenbach, Riffarth and Co. in Berlin. They are fine and instructive pictures throughout, primarily of neurological diseases;   in addition to the aneurysma and edema, I would like to cite the Basedow pictures as especially typifying and supplementing of the pathologic-anatomic illustrations.

Edgar Goldschmid wrote these words in his book Entwicklung und Bibliographie der Pathologisch-anatomischen Abbildungen ( Leipzig: K.W. Hiersemann, 1925) an important bibliography on the subject of historical medical illustration. Indeed, of all the art he reproduces in his book, only one, Tafel #43 (Morbus Basedowii) from the Curschmann, is a photograph.

Although Heinrich Curschmann took some criticism for the expense he incurred on this project (Jankau, Int. Med.-photo. Mon., v. II., i. 1, p. 19), there is no disputing that he accomplished a landmark work in the history of photography and medicine. The warm depths and shadows of the copper plates render to the heart what are difficult images of stricken humanity. Without a doubt, Curschmann intended to produce a mechanically rigorous monograph on medicine, but the argument can be made that as an amateur artist himself he held in his mind the portfolio engravings of Goya as a close model.

Klinische Abbildungen appeared in 1894, a year when interest in medical photography was at its most emphatic. In his preface Curschmann writes:

In all fields there arises an interest for clinical photography. It will not be a long time coming when the physical science and chemistry of a photographic lab will complement most clinics and the greater hospitals.

Curschmann was 6 years into his directorship at the Leipzig Clinic and the labs he built there were in full production, delivering 50 boxes of photographs to the Rome International Medical Congress which was especially sensational for the photographic exhibits that year (Jankau, Int. Med.-photo. Mon., v. I., i. 3, p. 5). The year 1894 also saw the debut printing of Internationale Medizinisch-photographische Monatsschrift, a monthly journal devoted exclusively to the subject of photography as it pertains to research and practice of the medical arts. A long article in the very first issue details the Leipzig Dunkelkammern and their importance to anatomical research.

In all likelihood, Jankau modeled his Monatsschrift after Nouvelle Iconographie de la Salpêtrière, a bimonthly journal out of Paris which began at the behest of Charcot in 1888, the same year that Curschmann assumed directorship of the Leipzig Clinic. Jankau often solicited abstracts from the Salpêtrière doctors and scientists especially from Albert Londe who co-authored the Nouvelle Iconographie. Albert Londe contributed the centerpiece of Jankau's debut issue with a piece on motion study entitled, La Photochronographie appliquée aux Études Médicales. Of course Curschmann would have been aware of the photography that came out of Albert Londe's labs at the Salpêtrière and would have read Londe's book La Photographie Médicale, published a year before in 1893. Curschmann included a few sequential and motion studies of his own in the Klinische Abbildungen, most spectacularly with Plate 8-9:

Dystrophia muscularis progressiva infantilis. Art des Uebergangs von der liegenden in die aufrechte Haltung.

which shows a seven year old boy suffering from muscular dystrophy as he attempts to raise himself up off the floor to an upright position.

Finally, the year 1894 also saw the release of Dr. Max Nitze's Kystophotographischer Atlas, providing the first photographic evidence of abnormalities to the bladder obtained by his new cystoscope. Curschmann did not include any pathological specimens in his book because he was more concerned with presenting an iconic physiology but it is this promise of revealing secrets of the living body, that invoked such passion in those clinicians pursuing the science of photography in the years leading up to 1894. With Nitze's device the stage was set and one year later, with Roengten's invention, Curschmann and other directors of the world's great hospitals would turn their attention to building the best in-house x-ray laboratories.

---Mark Rowley

The 57 photogravures presented here are from Goldschmid's own copy of the Klinische Abbildungen:


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