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Albinus & Ladmiral Issue the First Full Color Printing by the Three-Color Process to Illustrate a Medical or Scientific Book (1736 – 1741)


In 1736 physician and anatomist Bernhard Siegfried Albinus of Leiden published Dissertatio de arteries et venis intestinorum hominis. Adjecta icon coloribus distincta containing a color mezzotint printed by the painter Jan Ladmiral. This was among the earliest applications of full color printing, and the first use of the three-color printing  process in a medical or scientific book. Between 1736 and 1741 Albinus issued six pamphlets, each containing a color mezzotint by Ladmiral, forming the first series of full-color anatomical color-printed illustrations ever made.  Besides the previously mentioned pamphlet of 1736, the dissertations included De sede et causa coloris Aethiopum et caeterorum hominum (1737), a treatise on the anatomy and color of human skin; Icon durae matris in coava superficie visae (1738), on the anatomy of the brain; Icon durae matris in convexa superfice visae, ex capite (1738); Icon membranae vasculosae (1738), on the vascular membranes; and Effigies penis humani (1741), on the anatomy of the penis. These six images are  the only color prints produced by Jan Ladmiral, who had learned the process of color printing from the artist Jacob Christoph le Blon, the inventor of the process for printing color mezzotints using the three primary colors.  

♦ Probably the most unusual set of Albinus's pamphlets with color plates by Ladmiral is the collection bound in human skin in 1910 by Paul Kersten for the German collector Hans Friedenthal, and preserved at the Lane Medical Library at Stanford University.

The first medical book with illustrations printed in color by any method was Aselli's De lactibus (1627) which contained 4 folding woodcuts printed by the chiaroscuro process.

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (1920) 265-66 for Le Blon, and 267-69 for Ladmiral.