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3 Quicksilver Anatomy: Exploring the Lymphatic System with Mercury

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Chapter Summary

This chapter analyses the use of quicksilver in anatomical preparations in Leiden in the eighteenth century, revealing aesthesis in all its complexity. Quicksilver-injected preparations literally are eyecatchers. There are other mercury-injected preparations of the lymphatic system in the collections too, some wet, some dry, some of separated lymphatic vessels, others of lymphatic vessels in situ, of the heart, the liver, the penis, and the intestines. The chapter explores whether all these preparations were made by Sandifort, why these body parts were chosen and prepared with mercury, how the preparations were used, and what they meant to their contemporaries, while paying specific attention to the material aspects of aesthesis. It argues that the initial choice for mercury as injection mass for the lymphatic system was no coincidence, but the result of both the materiality and the meanings of mercury in the second half of the seventeenth century.

Keywords: aesthesis; anatomical preparations; Eduard Sandifort; Leiden; lymphatic system; materiality; mercury-injected preparations; quicksilver-injected preparations



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