©Wellcome Library, London

Full-term child in the womb

In this illustration from William Hunter's Anatomy of the gravid uterus (plate 12), the vagina and womb have been opened to reveal a full-term infant. Hunter's subject was a woman who died of haemorrhage before her child could be born. He described how the illustrations for the book were begun: ‘In the year 1751, the author met with the first favourable opportunity for examining, in the human species, what before he had been studying in brutes. A woman died suddenly, when very near the end of her pregnancy, the body was procured before any sensible putrefaction had begun; the season of the year was favourable to dissection [ie. winter] ... a very able painter, in this way, was found; every part was examined in the most public manner, and the truth was thereby well authenticated'. Two years later, he wrote to his old teacher, William Cullen (1710-1790): ‘In 2 or 3 weeks I shall shew one plate finished as a specimen of the figures of the Gravid uterus. As a piece of painting, I believe it will be the finest anatomical figure that ever was done. So it may; it will cost me a devilish deal of money'. The book eventually contained 34 illustrations and was sold for 6 guineas. Source: William Hunter. Anatomia uteri humani gravidi ... The anatomy of the human gravid uterus exhibited in figures. J Baskerville, Birmingham 1774.