Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2017

Access Restrictions


Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Hooks, Adam G

First Committee Member

Greteman, Blaine

Second Committee Member

Snider, Alvin

Third Committee Member

Brown, Matthew P

Fourth Committee Member

Yale, Elizabeth


Helkiah Crooke (1576-1648) was a London physician who wrote the first comprehensive anatomy manual in the English vernacular, Mikrokosmographia (1615). This dissertation demonstrates the significance of Crooke’s example for several lines of inquiry. His story shows the essential role of humanistic study in the development of an effective early modern physician. It also demonstrates how reading an anatomy manual as a literary work illuminates the paradigms underpinning the relationships between books and bodies in the early modern era. Furthermore, examining the performative aspects of the physician’s profession alongside dramatic literary characters elucidates the relationship between the professional sphere and the public stage and, consequently, the ramifications of that relationship for Crooke’s historical characterization. Ultimately, the project shows how and why Crooke and Mikrokosmographia are perfectly positioned to lend insight on a large number of medical practices and experiences in the early modern period.

While scholars frequently cite the book as a reference on early modern thinking about bodies, almost all of this use has consisted of material excerpted without systematic analysis of the way the text is put together or close examination of the cultural conditions of the book’s production. Furthermore, several of the extant accounts of Crooke’s life contradict one another, neglect crucial evidence, or make unsupported claims, leaving confusing questions regarding the education and career of the man who authored this important text. This dissertation rectifies several misconceptions regarding Crooke and his book, providing new interpretation of the creation of Mikrokosmographia and Crooke’s memory in the history of medicine. The project explores the anatomy manual’s cultural currency and the relationship of the book and its author to contemporary writing more readily recognized today as literary works. It also questions existing categorizations of early medical texts as it works to demonstrate the role of such writing in shaping authors’ identities and careers as well as affecting the lives and health of the public, recovering the fullest picture of Crooke’s life story and the most extensive bibliography of his writing to date.

Public Abstract

English physician Helkiah Crooke (1576-1648) wrote the first comprehensive vernacular anatomy manual, Mikrokosmographia (1615). Although scholars in many disciplines have drawn heavily on the text of the anatomy manual as a source for their research, the book and its author have not yet been properly examined and contextualized. This dissertation explores the life, education, and career of Crooke as well as the multiple editions of his book and the various people who contributed to its production and used it.

Crooke led a fascinating life. The son of a puritan preacher and one of nine children, he studied at the Universities of Leiden and Cambridge before settling in London to practice medicine as a member of the College of Physicians. Early in his career, Crooke frequently clashed with his professional institution, and they disapproved of his anatomy manual. The College objected that the book described the female body, particularly the reproductive system, in the common tongue, rather than being written in Latin like most medical books of its day. Crooke managed to obtain the support of King James I and published his book anyway.

Mikrokosmographia was printed in three editions as well as in “epitome” form. Because the original book was large and expensive, the publisher also produced a more affordable and portable version to sell to a wider audience. Copies of both books survive today in libraries around the world and provide rich insights on the medical culture of early modern England and its treatment of female bodies.


anatomy, barber-surgeons, Helkiah Crooke, Mikrokosmographia, physicians, William Jaggard


ix, 189 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 183-189).


Copyright © 2017 Jillian Faith Linster