The Definitive textbook by Henry Gray
Gray's anatomy is the definitive anatomy textbook. The first addition was compiled in the 1800's by the British anatomist Henry Gray. It was specifically compiled for those studying medicine and aimed to comprehensively cover the human body and all of its systems. Using the most up to date information available, Henry Gray created one of the most influential textbooks on the subject of anatomy ever. It was esteemed as the leading textbook in it's field for many years, and consequently future additions became more and more exhaustive in their attempts to make the book absolutely comprehensive. Recently this trend has been reversed as it was felt the book was becoming too complicated to be easily useable by those studying the subject, consequently recent additions have sought to trim the information contained thus offering more concise and applicable information to students.
Henry Gray decided to write the book in 1855, enlisting the help of his colleague Henry Vandyke Carter whilst working at the St George's Hospital Medical School in London. The two men worked on the text for a year and a half, dissecting many unclaimed bodies in order to perfect the textbook. Henry Gray envisaged the book to be a accessible and affordable anatomy book chiefly for students. The book received high praise and following Henry Gray's death many other respected anatomists lent their expertise. Subsequent additions were released in both England and America, both texts distinct from each other in a number of minor regards. The release of separate editions in England and America led to a discrepancy regarding the editions in each country; from the 17th edition onwards the numbering of the British and American editions fall out of sync with one another. The editions got further and further out of line until the 30th edition (published in 1949 in the UK and 1984 in the USA).
Another aspect of Gray's anatomy which has added to it's notability concerns the diagrams. The original copy had over 1200 iconic anatomical diagrams. The styling of these diagrams was particularly interesting, possessing a somewhat macabre quality which many feel qualifies them as art as well medical diagrams. Though they can no longer be considered up to date, there is no doubt when viewing the diagrams that there is a certain beauty to the dark images. Many people with no affiliation with medicine enjoy the book simply because of these diagrams and their haunting qualities.
Traditionally Gray's Anatomy explored the subject via the systemic approach. That means each system was analysed in it's entirety e.g. Osteology, Splanchnology etc. Recently this approach has been abandoned in favour of regional anatomy. This means that the body is explored with regarded to parts rather than systems i.e. the upper extremity is explored with all associated systems covered within the section. This is a more popular approach anatomy though the publisher's acknowledge that both approaches have validity.