thomaswillisbrainscancutoutClarissimi viri Thomaeillis … De anima brutorum, quae hominis vitalis ac sensitiva est, exercitationes duae : quarum prior philosophica, ejusdem naturam, partes, potentia, & affectiones tradit : altera pathologica, morbos qui ipsam sedem ejus primariam, nempe cerebrum & nervosum genus afficiunt, explicat, eorumque therapeias instituit


878G       Thomas Willis 1621-1675 Clarissimi viri Thomae Willis … De anima brutorum, quae hominis vitalis ac sensitiva est, exercitationes duae : quarum prior philosophica, ejusdem naturam, partes, potentias, & affectiones tradit : altera pathologica, morbos qui ipsam sedem ejus primariam, nempe cerebrum & nervosum genus afficiunt, explicat, eorumque therapeias instituit.

Lugduni [Lyon] : Sumptibus Joannis Antonii Huguetan, & Soc. 1676             $7700

dsc_0153Two Quarto volumes 221 x 169 a4 2a4 é4 A-Pp4 Qq3. Second edition , the first was Oxford 1672. There are 40 full page engravings.  This is a very nice copy bound in two full contemporary calf bindings nicely rebaked.

This edition is in two parts which are sometimes bound separately, but have had a copy bound as one thick quarto as well.

“The term ‘neurology’ was introduced by Thomas Willis, the celebrated physician and 43494_3anatomist of the seventeenth century. For this, but more especially for his remarkable observations correlating the anatomy, pathology and clinical disorders of the nervous system, he may be substantially claimed as the founder of neurology.”

“Willis had as pupils men who went on to brilliant achievements. they included Robert Hooke, the great inventive physicist and microscopist; John Locke, the physician-philosopher; Richard Lower and Edmund King, who performed the first blood transfusion; Thomas Millington, later president of the Royal College of Physicians, Royal Physician and successor to Willis in the Oxford chair; and finally Christopher Wren, who the diarist Evelyn referred to as ‘that miracle of a youth.’”

“The famous copper engraving of the base of the brain showing the cranial nerves and the arterial circle is thus almost certainly from a drawing by Christopher Wren. […] There is no question that Willis, in addition to describing the anatomy of the circle, clearly recognized its functional significance. He reports how he had ‘squirted oftentimes into either artery of the carotides, a liquor dyed with ink,’ so that ‘the vessels creeping into every corner and secret place of the Brain and the Cerebel,’ were ‘imbued with the same color.’ Moreover, he records the clinical histories of two patients where this anatomical arrangement, he argues, had prevented apoplexy. He noted, for example, one patient who had no evidence of apoplexy during life ‘in which the Right Arteries, both the Carotid and Vertebral, within the Skull, were become bony and impervious, and did shut forth the blood from that side.’ He reasoned in these cases that the remaining large vessels running to the arterial circle at the base of the brain, by way of their ‘mutual conjoinings’ were able to ‘supply or fill the channels and passages of all the rest.’ This sequence—anatomical description, clinical reporting, and pathological observation—exemplifies the best of Willis’ writing and indicates the original and insight that he brought to medical problems. From reading such examples, there can be little doubt of the active role which Willis himself played in such investigations.” (quoted from Dr. William Feindel, the Canadian Medical Assoc. Journal, Aug. 11, 1962, vol. 87, pages 289-296)


Willis pointed out that the difficulty in breathing encountered in asthma was due to a constriction of the bronchioles. He gave the first detailed descriptions of cardiospasm, myasthenia gravis and hyperacousia. He was also the first to detect the sweetish taste of the urine of the diabetic, thus allowing the distinction to be made between diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus. “In the course of his work Willis made a number of contributions to psychiatry proper. First, he convincingly vindicated the uterus and the humors from causing hysteria, which incidentally he likened to hypochonriasis in men. Instead he placed its pathology squarely in ‘the Brain and Nervous Stock.’ […] Secondly, Willis gave one of the most extensive accounts of the whole field of mental illness which had appeared up to that time. He attributed ‘melancholy’ or affective psychosis to ‘passions of the heart;’ and ‘madness’ or psychosis phrenia, to ‘vice or fault of the Brain.’ He recognized the difference between the symptoms of gross brain disease and those of mental illness in which he accounted for the absence of pathological findings by postulating a disturbance of the brain and nerves in terms of disordered ‘Animal Spirits.’ For this reason he is often credited with having first equated mind disease with brain disease. […] Thirdly, Willis described patients with dementia in association with paralysis and tremor with fatal termination, which possibly represent the first cases of general paralysis of the insane, a disease not established as a clinico-pathological entity until the third decade of the nineteenth century.” (quoted from Hunter & Mcalpine.)



Here is the breakdown of contents:

Praefatio, page [7] — Elenchus rerum in tractatu de anima brutorum, sive parte prima, page [9] — De Anima Brutorum, page 1– Pars I. Physiologica, page 1 — III. Varia Brutorum, page 10 — Figuram explicatio, tabula prima … -quarta, page 24 with Tabula I-IV [Anatomy of the silkworm, oyster, lobster, and worm] — IV. Anima Brutorum partibus sive membris, page 29 — Figuram explicatio, tabula quinta … -septa, page 37 with Tabula V-VII [Brain anatomy of a sheep] — VI. De Scientia seu coginitione Brutorum, page 43 — VII. Anima Corporea Scientia sive Brutorum cum Anima rationali comparatur, page 51 — Figuram Figuram explicatio, tabula octava, page 59 with VIII [Human Brain anatomy (vertical section) showing corpus callosum] — VIII. De Animae Corporeae passionibus, sive affectibus in genere, page 61 — IX. De Passionibus speciatim, page 67.– X. De sensu in genere, page 75 — XI. De sensibus speciatim, & primo de Tactu, page 82 — XII. De Gustatu, page 84 — XIII. De Olfactu, page 92 — XIV. De sensu auditus: page 94 — XV. De Visu, page 102 — XVI. De Sommo & Vigilia, page 117. — Pars II. Pathologica, page 133 — I. De Cephalalgia, page 135 — II. De Cephalalgia prognosis, page 144 — III. De Lethargo, page 159 — IV. De Somnolentia continua, comate, & caro, page 169 — V. De pervigilio & Comate vigil, page 175 — VI. De Incubo, page 180 — VII. De Vertigine, page 184 — VIII. De Apoplexia, page 194 — IX. De paralysi, page 205 — X. De Delirio, & Phrenitide, page 227 — XI. De Melancholia, page 238 — XII. De Mania, page 255 –XIII. De Stupiditate sive Morosi, page 265 –XIV. De Arthritide, page 272 –XV. De Passione Colica, page 286, Index Alphabeticus, unnumbered pages 1-12. 



“Thomas Willis was one of the original Fellows of the Royal Society, being elected in November 1663, though through a technicality he was not listed until October 24, 1667, at the time of renewal of the charter. In 1664 he was made Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. Influenced by Gilbert Sheldon, Archbishop of Canterbury, who had supported his appointment to the Oxford professorship, Willis moved in 1666 to London, where he practised from St. Martin’s Lane. The reputation he had acquired at Oxford preceded him, and he soon became noted for his medical skill and known for his charitable works.
Thomas Willis wrote on a formidable range of topics, including fermentation, fevers, urine, ascension of the blood, muscular motion, anatomy of the brain, description and use of the nerves, convulsive diseases, scurvy, the comparative anatomy of some dozen species ranging from the earthworm and lobster to the sheep and man. He published numerous clinical and autopsy reports, particularly on neurological problems. Finally, in his last writings on rational therapeutics, he presented a vast and complex pharmacopeia in which are buried, however, useful descriptions of the anatomy of blood vessels, the muscular layers of the stomach and the detailed structure of the lungs.(R)His name has been associated with the syndrome of paracusis, the spinal accessory nerve, the first division of the fifth nerve, the connective tissue septae in the dural sinuses, and, of course, the arterial circle at the base of the brain. The clinical observations of Willis include a description of the sweetness of diabetic urine and a lengthy discussion of various types of diabetes, known to his seventeenth century patients bv the quaint name of “chamber pot dropsy”. He recorded epidemic typhoid fever among the troops in the Civil War, described and named puerperal fever, gave useful descriptions of whooping cough and asthma, and pointed out that the intermittent pulse was not invariably associated with a bad prognosis. He contributed much to comparative anatomy and with his students Edmund King and John Masters, for example, he published the first detailed anatomical description of the edible oyster. He devised the probang, an ingenious “machine” for treating “a very rare case of a certain Man of Oxford” who was probably suffering from a stricture or achalasia of the esophagus. The patient vomited each time he ate. When it became clear that he could not be helped by medicines, but, wrote Willis, “languished away for hunger, and every Day was in danger of Death, I prepared an Instrument for him like a Rod, of a whale Bone, with a little round Button of Spunge fixed to the top of it; the sick Man having taken down meat and drink into his Throat, presently putting this down in the Oesophagus, he did thrust down into the Ventricle, its Orifice being opened, the Food which otherwise would come back again; and by this means he hath daily taken his sustenance for sixteen Years and doth yet use the same Machine, and is yet alive, and well, who would otherwise perish for want of Food.”
As Cushing and Symonds have written, Willis was the first to present the notion of a circulating hormone from the pituitary and from the gonads. His extensive neurological writings still remain to be adequately appraised. His classification of the cranial nerves was in use for several centuries. He described the branches of the vagus nerve and the nerves to the diaphragm, and pictured the basal ganglia and structures of the brain stem in detail never before presented. He was probably the first to report temporal lobe epilepsy and to report the effects of myasthenia gravis” in a woman who temporarily lost her power of speech and became “mute as a fish”. The term “reflex” can be clearly ascribed to Willis. He wrote on headache, epilepsy, apoplexy, paralysis of the insane, narcolepsy! and mental retardation. He explained hysteria not as a disorder of the uterus but as a nervous affection. The value of his observations on psychiatric and mental disturbances has only recently been recognized.


This word first appears in Greek, in the Latin edition of Willis’ “Cerebri Anatome” published in 1664. It was introduced into English in 1681 in the translation of Willis’ works by Samuel Pordage, a Cavalier poet who dabbled at writing Restoration plays. He provided “a table of all the hard words from the Greek and Latin for the benefit of meer English Readers” where he “fully explained them and rendered them intelligible to the meanest capacity”, and here “Neurologie” is referred to as “the Doctrine of the Nerves”. The term was evidently used by Willis to include the cranial, spinal, peripheral and autonomic nerves as distinct from the brain and spinal cord, as when he states “we have resolved to undertake the task of the Doctrine of the Nerves; and this rather because without the perfect knowledge of the Nerves, the Doctrine of the Brain and its Appendix would be left wholly lame and imperfect.”

Willis’ use of the root “neuro”, from the Greek word meaning sinew, tendon or bowstring, antedates its appearance in all other combinations in English by a century or more. Later, toward the end of the eighteenth century, the word “neurology” gradually came to its present broader meaning, given in the Oxford English Dictionary, of “the scientific study or knowledge of the anatomy, functions and diseases of the nerves and the nervous system”.”

William Feindel, Thomas Willis (1621-1675) – The Founder of Neurology. The Canadian Medical Association Journal, 87 (11.Aug.1962), pp.289-296

Garrison-Morton (online); 1544 (London, R. Davis ed., 1672), 1544, 4513, 4730, 4793, 4919, 4966; Hardin Library for the Heal Sciences. Heirs of Hippocrates (1990)online; No. 540; Sallander, H. Bibliotheca Walleriana; 10324