Mikrokosmographia… the Grey’s Anatomy of the 17th Century


Your early modern doctor needed two main characteristics (don’t quote me on this), a vivid imagination and a very strong stomach for gore.

Helkiah Crooke was one such individual, and he stands out from crowd because (like Da Vinci before him) he took to drawing his discoveries in the nooks and crannies of his victims patients, and, even better, writing about them.

This has led us to the delightful (well if you like that sort of thing) Mikrokosmographia: Anatomy of the Body of Man, first published around 1615.

The book caused a scandal for two reasons.

  1. It wasn’t just pics of the body of man, WOMEN’s bits were included too (this upset the Bishop of London)
  2. It was written in English causing The College of Physicians to worry that, with this book in their hot sweaty germ covered hands, ANY OLD PEASANT could be a doctor.


Crooke was full of very excellent observations about humanity…

Penis size

  • Midwives needed to cut the umbilical cord longer to increase size
    • It is thought also it wil be How to make it long. longer if the Nauill-strings (umbilical cord) bee not close knit by the Midwife when the childe is new borne;
  • But, aside from this they are usually in proportion, BUT NOT ALWAYS
    • Of the indiuiduum or particular, because it is formed commonlie according to the proportion of the members, vet sometimes it is large in a little man 

Boners not actually containing bone

  • Because it would bother the other sex and be a general hinderance to daily life
    • The structure of this member is such as is fittest for his vse and the necessity of Nature. The structure Why not a bone. It is not bony, as in a Dogge, a Woolfe and a Fox; for so it would not be a pleasure but a great troble to the other sexe; besides, being alwayes rigid or stiffe it woulde haue beene both vncomely and haue hindered many actions and postures or positions of the body.

And why Baboons and ladies in bed are a very bad sign…

  • It is a very wicked owing to the Baboons having sizeable balls and a tendency towards violence
  • Also it seems bulls are able to change sex…
  • And therefore it is no wonder (though Aristotle writeth it for a wonder) that a Bul after his testi∣cles are cut off, may get a Calf. Vesalius hath obserued that the prostate glandules are noto∣riously large & ful in Monkies; and indeed they are of al creatures the most lasciuious, as we do not only read in authors, but haue also seene by the great Baboons which were heere to be seene among vs; for they would in a maner offer violence euen to a woman. It is there∣fore a very wicked and inhumane thing for Gentlewomen to cherish them in their bosoms yea in their beds, as I haue seene some doe with mine owne eies.”


Yep… that’s quite enough about that for a Monday…



The Crooke Book


Mikrokosmographia – full text

Helkiah Crooke – wikipedia page