Creating and controlling a visual language: authorial control and image-making in William Hunter's collection of anatomical drawings and prints

Hughes, Alicia (2021) Creating and controlling a visual language: authorial control and image-making in William Hunter's collection of anatomical drawings and prints. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.


The anatomist William Hunter (1718 – 1783) was one of the most important collectors and commissioners of anatomical drawings in the eighteenth century. Surprisingly, there has not been an account of his collection of anatomical drawings, nor of his practice of commissioning images outside those pertaining to his illustrated anatomical book, Anatomia uteri humani gravidi tabulis illustrata / The Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus, exhibited in figures (1774). This thesis pieces together the many facets of his wide-ranging collection, interrogating and contextualising Hunter’s creation of a visual language and his display of authorship and editorship within the developing scientific discipline of anatomy in the eighteenth century. Following the introduction, which sets out the conceptual framework for this study, Hunter’s collection is investigated in four chapters, a prelude and an interlude, arranged by facet of collection: historical drawings commissioned by William Smellie (1697 – 1763); anatomical drawings inherited from James Douglas (bap. 1675 – 1742); drawings and proof engravings for Hunter’s own Anatomia; historical drawings by William Cowper (1666 – 1709); images commissioned for the Society of Physicians in London’s Medical Observations and Inquiries journal; and Hunter’s own ‘paper museum’ of commissioned pathological anatomical drawings. As the chapters proceed, I examine Hunter’s interest in his intellectual predecessors’ image-making and book production processes and the extent to which he exerted both authorial and editorial control over the process of making drawings and prints in his own professional practice. In doing so, I demonstrate how Hunter was influenced by past conventions of art and publishing and I offer a new understanding of the development of his book. Hunter’s close involvement in the making of images is explained, I argue, by the early impetus of what he described as his “plan for being an author.” By examining Hunter’s collaborative image-making and authorial practices in parallel, this thesis demonstrates that Hunter’s conception of himself as an author is key to his wider practice of collecting and commissioning images for the creation of a visual language of anatomy.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: William Hunter, paper museum, museums, authorship, authorial control, collecting, history of collecting, anatomy, drawing, prints, printmaking, illustration, images, collaborative image-making, naturalism, visual language, eighteenth century, authorial editing, editorial authorship, publishing, book production, James Douglas, William Smellie, William Cowper, Richard Mead, Jan van Rymsdyk.
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > NC Drawing Design Illustration
N Fine Arts > NE Print media
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Supervisor's Name: Porter, Dr. Dahlia and Black, Dr. Peter
Date of Award: 2021
Embargo Date: 3 June 2024
Depositing User: Dr Alicia Hughes
Unique ID: glathesis:2021-82239
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2021 07:58
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2021 07:59
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82239

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