An atlas of horrible things that could happen to you in the 15th century

Today, he's known as "Wound Man", but once upon a time this illustration was just one part of a standard medical or surgical text book. You'd get your basic illustrations of anatomy. Then you'd get your Wound Man, to show you all the different, awful things that could happen to that anatomy. A 2009 blog post from the Wellcome Library explains:

Captions beside the stoic figure describe the injuries and sometimes give prognoses: often precise distinctions are drawn between types of injuries, such as whether an arrow has embedded itself in a muscle or shot right through. (The latter is better – the arrowhead can be cut away and the shaft withdrawn smoothly, whilst the embedded arrow will tear the muscle with its barbs when pulled out.)

The other interesting thing about this illustration: It's also an example of how the early printing industry worked. According to the Bernard Becker Medical Library at Washington University, there were several different versions of the Wound Man, but the same version would show up in multiple books — a result of surgeons and printmakers literally carrying the same wood blocks from one printing press to another.

Read more about surgery and medicine during this time period by visiting the excellent history of science blog: The Chirurgeon's Apprentice

Wound Man via David Ng



  1. It’s amusing to glance at this image and imagine that the “Operation” board game dates to the 15th century.

    1. Here’s one of my design school projects.  It’s a record of every injury or surgery that I’d had until then.  The background is made up of excerpts from my medical record and the lines are my patient ID number.

  2. Has someone cut the tip off his willy? Of all the things happening to him, that makes me wince the most :(

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