King's College London
Online Exhibitions
The printed page

Spratt's lithographic plates

Hand-coloured lithographic plate with attached flap, showing the development of a baby during pregnancy and delivery. Also showing use of forcepsHand-coloured lithographic plate with attached flap, showing use of forcepsThis section of the online exhibition features a range of anatomical flap books dating from the mid-19th to the early 20th centuries.

The works that the images derive from contain movable flaps and parts which often produce a ‘pop-up’ effect and invite the reader to analyse the inner workings of the human body.

Hand-coloured lithographic plate with attached flap, showing the development of a baby during pregnancyHand-coloured lithographic plate with attached flapAnatomical flap books have been produced since the 16th century and became particularly popular in the 19th century, when developments in printing techniques allowed printers to produce brilliant colour illustrations.

The introduction of the machine printing press during this period also allowed for more accurate illustrations that could be produced efficiently in large quantities.

The educational and visual qualities of these works attracted a wide readership including doctors, medical students and artists, as well as general readers who wished to learn more about the human anatomy. The books that these images come from showcase the innovation and visual brilliance of anatomical flap book illustration of this era.

Hand-coloured lithographic plate with attached flap, showing the development of a baby during pregnancyHand-coloured lithographic plate with attached flapGeorge Spratt was a male midwife, printmaker, member of the Royal College of Surgeons and fellow of the Linnaean Society. Spratt’s innovative work on midwifery, Obstetric tables, was first published in 1833.

Obstetric tables was designed as a teaching aid, depicting all aspects of pregnancy through a range of illustrations, including depictions of external and internal changes to the body and illustrations showing the development of the baby.

The work also demonstrates techniques of midwifery, such as the use of forceps for delivery.The first edition includes 50 hand-coloured lithographed plates with attached flaps. These flaps are often layered up to four or five times and lift up to reveal the anatomy of the pregnant body.

Obstetric tables was extremely successful when it was first published and several subsequent editions were printed in England and the United States.

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