Harvey, William (1578-1657).
Exercitationes de generatione animalium. Quibus accedunt quaedam de partu: de membranis ac humoribus uteri: & de conceptione. London, William Dugard for Octavian Pulleyn the Elder [Elzevier], 1651.
4° (225x159 mm). Collation: [π]4, a4, B-Z4, Aa-Ss4. , 301,  pages. Complete with the blank leaves [π]1, C4, and Ss4. Roman and italic type. Engraved frontispiece on fol. [π]2v, showing Jove seated on a pedestal, opening an egg to release all of creation, with the inscription 'Gulielmus Harveus de Generatione Animalium'. Woodcut ornament on the title-page, decorated initials, and headpieces. Contemporary calf, unidentified gilt coat of arms at the centre of the covers, with the motto, only partly legible, 'TOTA SS MF ED PAS'. Spine with five raised bands, inked title on paper label and the letters 'pb' in gilt at the foot. Joints cracked. A good copy. Browned throughout owing to the paper quality, upper margins of the last quires slightly spotted.
Provenance: old library stamp on the recto of the frontispiece leaf (faded); Giorgio Borio (ex-libris on the front pastedown).
The very rare first edition of Harvey's most important work on conception, embryology, and birth, the text of the chapter De partu being the first original English work on obstetrics. A book which has an important place in the history of science.
“After the publication of De motu cordis, Harvey turned his attention to the study of generation. Even if Harvey had not discovered the circulation of the blood, his remarkable work on embryology would have placed him in the front ranks of biological scientists. Without benefit of the compound microscope, his work was necessarily limited; nevertheless, nothing comparable had been done since Aristotle. He disbelieved the previously held doctrine of 'preformation' of the fetus, maintaining instead that it proceeds from the ovum by gradual building up of its parts. Always slow to publicize his findings, Harvey was only after some years persuaded by his friend, Sir Georg Ent, to put them into print” (Heirs of Hippocrates, 271).
The work is divided into seventy-two exercitationes or chapters (in this first edition misnumbered seventy-one, the fifth chapter being numbered as the fourth), and collects notes and observations on generation which Harvey had assembled between 1628 and 1642. Three subsequent editions, in smaller format, followed in the same year in Holland, issued by Daniel Elzevier. The first translation into English appeared in London in 1653.
Although the original intention was to include Harvey's portrait, the engraved allegorical frontispiece shows Jove seated on a pedestal, opening an egg and releasing a variety of animal forms; in the background is a landscape with buildings, and on the egg is the famous inscription 'EX OVO OMNIA', i.e., 'all things from an egg'. This engraving is often lacking in the known copies. Keynes suggests the name of Richard Gaywood as the possible author of this frontispiece.
Wing H-1091; G. Keynes, Bibliography of the Writings of W. Harvey, 34; Garrison-Morton 467; Norman 1011; Waller 4118; Wellcome II, p. 219; G. Keynes, The Life of William Harvey, Oxford 1978, pp. 329-360; W. Harvey, Disputations Touching the Generation of Animals. ed. by G. Whitteridge, Oxford-London 1981; B.P.M. Dongelmans - P.G. Hoftijzer, Boekverkopers van Europe. Het 17de-eeuwse Nederlandse uitgevershuis Elzevier, Zutphen 2000, pp. 197, 200; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 203.