Skeletons and Injections: William Hunter’s Lectures on Anatomy and Aesthetics

University of Glasgow Library

William Hunter. Painted postmortem by Joshua Reynolds c. 1787. Note the anatomical preparation on the desk. Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery GLAHA 43793 William Hunter. Painted postmortem by Joshua Reynolds c. 1787. Note the anatomical preparation in the glass jar on the desk. (The Hunterian GLAHA 43793)

A guest blogpost by Arden Hegele, PhD Candidate, English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

A criminal is dissected. "The reward of cruelty" (1750) by John Bell after William Hogarth. Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery collections GLAHA 54344 A criminal is dissected. “The reward of cruelty” (1750) by John Bell after William Hogarth. (The Hunterian GLAHA 54344)

During my recent visit to the University of Glasgow, I arrived at the Special Collections with a very clear motive: to find a report in the medical archives that described how an eighteenth-century anatomist would perform a postmortem dissection. I hoped that my visit would help to round out my most recent dissertation chapter on shared formal protocols among the Romantic epitaph, elegy, and autopsy report. The classroom notes from the lectures of William Hunter (1718-1783), Glasgow’s greatest anatomist, would surely be the place to find historical instructions on the mechanics of the autopsy…

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