nd [mid-late 19th c.]. Oblong folio, 14 x 21.5 in. 49 pp., approx. 400 accomplished sketches and drawings in red pencil, some in outline, some more elegantly shaded and detailed, showing the human form and its various parts. Accompanied by detailed notes, in red or purple ink, written in a clear, neat hand around the drawings. Bound in 3/4 leather and pebbled cloth. Spine perished, boards moderately scuffed and spotted, front board partly detached, marbled endpapers. Each page of drawings and notes is enclosed in a hand-drawn red pencil border, approx. 10 x 14 in. Evidently intended as an artist's instruction book, given the detailed accompanying notes.
The drawings are grouped into two sections: the first group of 21 hand-numbered pages treats the skull, face, mouth, chin, ear, neck, along with comparisons of human and animal expression. Although there is no indication of who the artist might be, a few sporadic notes mention that some of the figures were drawn from images in the Museum of Natural History in Boston. These include a chimpanzee, "a manlike ape (Drawn from a Cast in the Museum...)," the "Head of Ourang," a sketch of a lion's skull, the skull of a California Indian, and one of an Anglo-American. There are also a handful of drawings of "Negro" heads, including one "drawn from life." The drawings depict men, women and children, and pose the question: "What is the form of the head seen from above- below- from the side? What parts come into view as the Head is placed in different positions?" The unknown author/artist also notes that "no intelligent idea of the Head can be formed until the Student has acquired a th[o]rougher knowledge of the Planes of the Face." A group of some 15 sketches of the zygomatic arch includes the remark that "[t]he jaws of Women are seldom strong or strongly marked. Men gesticulate less than Woman." Occasionally the author of these notes includes questions, ie: "Suppositional: The Ear is an element of proportion only. When the Ears are coarse the Hands and Feet are coarse. When the Ears are well made the Hands and Feet are well made."
The second group of 28 hand-numbered pages include sketches of the rest of the human body, the skeleton, sternum, clavicle, hand, wrist, foot, knee, ankle, shoulder, etc. showing bones and muscle structure in meticulous and nuanced detail, and with extensive notes. Part of the commentary on the page delineating the hand: “An intellectual sense of equilibrium united to the instinctive sense in persons of taste- gives grace and precision to the motions of the Body…. Narrow shoulders and Pelvis and large Hands and Feet are inversions of the principles of mechanical uses or equilibrium in the Human Body- The motions of persons so made can never be other than awkward and inexact when put to extreme trial with one of opposite form. To discover this by contrast is the artist’s endowment, whether the executive power accompanies it or not.” Also: "The Hands of Women are more flexible than the Hands of Men; narrower in proportion to their length; of finer proportions in the Animal scale and capable of greater exactness in their use.” One sketch of the shoulder joint in torque depicts a figure resembling Christ on the cross, with his arms stretched upward, and the caption: "Extension by force.... the Pectoral muscle nearly vertical. The Ribs extended." The unidentified author/artist remarks that in drawing one should "Avoid skeletal outlines- make no display of technical anatomy. A work of art should be something more than the solution of a problem in science." Item #64450
A small group of men interested in the natural sciences had organized the Boston Society of Natural History in 1830, and displayed their collections in various temporary locations in the city until 1864 when the Museum of Natural History opened its doors at the corner of Berkeley and Boylston Streets. The unnamed artist made use of the collections there according to the notes in this sketchbook, helping to date the work. This notebook came from an estate sale in Maryland, accompanied by a card, in a much later hand, which stated that the book was compiled by Sister Jane Frances Dooley, ca. 1850. The Sister was apparently a member of the order which founded the Catholic Female Institute [later Visitation Academy], in Frederick, Maryland. Anecdotal information in the notebook makes this story seem unlikely.