Ontleedkundige Tafelen (ターヘル・アナトミア)

The "Ontleedkundige Tafelen" was a book of anatomy on which a Japanese language version entitled "Kaitai Shinsho" (New Book of Anatomy) was based. The book was an anatomical text written by a German named Johann Adam KULMUS which was translated into Dutch. Published in Amsterdam in 1734.


The "Ontleedkundige Tafelen" was written by a German doctor by the name of Johann Adam KULMUS (1689 - 1745). The original text "Anatomische Tabellen" was published in Gdansk in 1722. The second edition was published in 1732. The text was translated into Latin, French and Dutch.

The Dutch language version "Ontleedkundige Tafelen" was published in 1734. A Dutch doctor named Gerardus DICTEN (ca. 1696 - 1770) translated the text into Dutch.

Problems associated with the book title

The book title "Taheru Anatomia" is the term which Genpaku SUGITA used to refer to "Ontleedkundige Tafelen" in his book "Rangaku Kotohajime" (The Beginning of Dutch Studies). In "Kaitai Shinsho" which was written in kanbun (Chinese classics), the term '打係縷亜那都米' ('Taheru Anatomia' in Chinese characters) has a phonetic subscript printed beside it in order to overcome transliteration/expression challenges. In the explanatory note of "Kaitai Shinsho," there is an explanation of the meanings of 'Taheru' (charts) and 'Anatomia' (anatomy).

The book title of "Taheru Anatomia" became widely known by the influence of "Kaitai Shinsho" and "Rangaku Kotohajime," but this is actually only a common name.
In German the original title was Anatomische Tabellen while the original Dutch title was Ontleedkundige Tafelen; neither is equivalent to the Japanese transliterated title 'Taheru Anatomia.'

The Latin which appears on the title page of the book shows Tabulæ Anatomicæ, which, while being a close approximation of 'Taheru Anatomia,' still remains subtly different. Tafel Anatomie, which is the Dutch word retranslated from Tabulæ Anatomicæ, is the closest to Taheru Anatomia. The common name of the book in Dutch language was supposedly spread and became called 'Taheru Anatomia' amongst scholars who studied Western sciences by means of the Dutch language in Japan. Incidentally, the name "Tabulæ Anatomicæ" can often be found for books of anatomy.

For the above reasons, it is difficult to say that "Taheru Anatomia" is the formal title of the book, and for all intents and purposes it is appropriate to call it such as "Kulmus' Anatomy"; however, in "Rangaku Kotohajime," the author Genpaku SUGITA refers to the book on numerous occasions as "Taheru Anatomia," leading to a spread of this term of reference. In Japan "Taheru Anatomia" refers to Kulmus' Anatomy.

Appearance in Japan

At least two books were imported into Japan. They were owned by Ryotaku MAENO and Genpaku SUGITA. It is thought that more than the above two existed into Japan.

Ryotaku MAENO obtained the book when studying in Nagasaki in 1770.

The person who acted as a broker when Genpaku SUGITA obtained the book was Junan NAKAGAWA, a member of the team translating "Kaitai Shinsho." In the spring of 1771, Junan NAKAGAWA called on the Capitão (head) of the Dejima Factory during the Edo shogunate years. It was there that he was shown copies of "Ontleedkundige Tafelen" and "Casper's Anatomy" and told if he wanted the book the Capitão would sell it to him. There is no doubt that Junan wanted the books himself; however, he lacked the funds to purchase them. Junan borrowed the two books and took them to his fellow doctor of Obama Domain and also his mentor, Genpaku SUGITA. Although Genpaku was also greatly interested in the books, he was also unable to purchase them himself; he asked the chief retainer of the clan who put up the funds and a last, the books were secured. Furthermore, it appears that Genpaku also obtained a copy of "Casper's Anatomy" at around this time, and in "Kaitai Shinsho" the book is mentioned as a reference possessed by Genpaku.

On April 18, 1771, Genpaku SUGITA, Junan NAKAGAWA, Ryotaku MAENO and others gathered at the Kozukappara execution grounds to dissect corpses of the executed. There Ryotaku had brought a copy of "Ontleedkundige Tafelen." It is understood this was the same book of the same edition that Genpaku had in his possession which enabled them to collaborate.

The following day, Ryotaku MAENO, Genpaku SUGITA and Junan NAKAGAWA commenced working on their translation of 'Kaitai Shinsho.'

Links with "Kaitai Shinsho"

"Kaitai Shinsho" is basically a translation of "Ontleedkundige Tafelen," but referred to several other Western books and incorporated Genpaku SUGITA's own notes. It can be said that it is not a mere translation, but is a book which was reorganized into a practical anatomy text.

Explanatory notes in the original manuscript of 'Kaitai Shinsho' were eliminated, and only the text was translated.

It goes without saying that, when "Kaitai Shinsho" was being translated, the study of the Dutch language was far from sufficient, and there were numerous errors in the translation. At that time, Genpaku SUGITA was unaware that "Ontleedkundige Tafelen" was a Dutch translation from the original German language text and had thought that the book was originally written in Dutch.

Genpaku is also thought to have deeply regretted that "Kaitai Shinsho" was riddled with translation errors and had one of his pupils, Gentaku OTSUKI do a retranslation. It is the "Jutei Kaitai Shinsho" (lit. Substantially Revised New Book of Anatomy). The manuscript of this revised book was completed in 1798, however, publication was delayed for various reasons and publication eventually took place in 1826.

[Original Japanese]