Cambridgeshire

Book suggests taboos held back knowledge of female body

A page in the book has had a triangular section removed. Image copyright PA
Image caption A page in the book has had a triangular section removed

A censored, 16th Century book suggests that scientific knowledge of the female body was held back by social taboos, researchers have said.

The copy of the 1559 Thomas Gemini anatomy book is going on display at a University of Cambridge exhibition.

A triangular piece of a page depicting female genitals was removed by the book's original owner.

Curator Shelley Hughes said it showed religion and superstition delayed understanding of the female anatomy.

'Servants of Satan'

She said the book's owner was "disturbed by its depiction of a semi-dissected female torso".

"The offending part, a neat triangle of paper on which the vagina would have been drawn, has been carefully cut away.

"Sin and female flesh were held in close association in 16th Century society with naked women often portrayed as the servants of Satan."

The book will be displayed at St John's College on Saturday 25 March as part of an exhibition called Under The Knife At St John's: A Medical History Of Disease And Dissection.

The 16th Century was a time of medical revolution with scientists improving their understanding of the body from human dissections.

The exhibition shows how knowledge of the body's structure emerged as the power of superstition and religion weakened.

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