Gray’s Anatomy: Past and Present

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Figure 159 - Muscles of the Left Hand. Gray, Henry, and H. V Carter. Anatomy, Descriptive and Surgical. Philadelphia: Blanchard and Lea, 1859.

Figure 159 – Muscles of the Left Hand. Gray, Henry, and H. V Carter. Anatomy, Descriptive and Surgical. Philadelphia: Blanchard and Lea, 1859.

Gray’s Anatomy has been considered to be a landmark of medical literature ever since Drs. Henry Gray and H.V. Carter published the first edition in 1858. Still going strong in 2008, Elsevier celebrated the 150th anniversary of the work by publishing a 40th edition in both print and electronic formats.  The publication of a 41st edition of Gray’s Anatomy is planned for later this year.

The Claude Moore Health Sciences Library has over the years acquired many editions of Gray’s Anatomy. The oldest volume in our collection, published in 1859, is the first U.S. edition. Originally titled, Anatomy: Descriptive and Surgical, the 1859 work is a near replica of the first British edition published a year earlier.

Gray and Carter’s book was an instant success in both Great Britain and the United States because it was accurate, clearly written, well organized, and relatively affordable. Despite the popularity of the original text and illustrations, each subsequent edition of Gray’s Anatomy incorporated new material to ensure that the book remained relevant. Over time, the revisions gradually transformed Gray and Carter’s book and, as a result, the most recent editions contain little of their original work.

To learn more about the origins of Gray’s Anatomy, check out Bill Hayes’s work, The Anatomist: A True Story of Gray’s Anatomy. Or, visit the Medical Center Hour channel at YouTube to view Dissecting Gray’s Anatomy, a lecture Hayes gave at the University of Virginia in 2014.

You can see for yourself how Gray’s Anatomy has changed since 1859 by viewing the print editions at the library and accessing the following electronic edition through your library account:

Gray's Anatomy: The Anatomical Basis of Clinical Practice, 40th edition

Gray’s Anatomy: The Anatomical Basis of Clinical Practice online

The Library also has several online anatomy study guides that are derived from the main publication:
Gray’s Atlas of Anatomy
Gray’s Anatomy for Students
Gray’s Basic Anatomy
Gray’s Clinical Neuroanatomy: The Anatomic Basis for Clinical Neuroscience
Gray’s Clinical Photographic Dissector of the Human Body

Historical data and photo provided by Dan Cavanaugh, Historical Collections Specialist.

About Jonathan Lord

Head of Collection Development and Management
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