Early Interactive Books: Japanese Anatomical Flap Book

Flap anatomies were important, interactive diagrams used for teaching human and animal anatomy in the early modern period. These paper technologies allowed medical students, surgeons, and other interested people to visualize the layers of skin, muscle, organs, and bones that compose the fabric of the body.

Flap anatomies created in Western Europe by people like Johannes Remmelin (Catoptrum Microcosmicum, 1619) were regularly printed in books, pamphlets, and individual sheets. While they are uncommon in rare book libraries today because they are so fragile, they have been explored by historians.

East Asian examples, on the other hand, are all but unknown. This manuscript is anonymous, and we have not seen other examples of Japanese flap anatomies. This volume, thus, presents somewhat of a mystery: Who made it? Why? Were they inspired by European examples brought to Japan by the Dutch? Who used it?

This mid-Edo (late-18th or early 19th century) flap anatomy is unique for several reasons: It was handmade, from the outlines and coloring to cutting and assembling, rather than printed There are a large number of flap sets - sixteen total - some of which are full bodies, others are individual organs The two final pages focus on reproductive, and one is essentially a timeline of fetal development. The Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine at the University of Medicine is excited to introduce this interactive, animated version of this early Japanese flap anatomy. This digital copy allows unlimited exploration of what is, in person, a fragile item.

Select a Diagram: