This chapter is illustrated in particular by the first figure at the beginning of chapter 25, showing the inner [palmar] surface of the hand together with the ossicles [ossa sesamoidea] to be described in this chapter, near the letters N, T, V, V, X, and Y, 1 of which N and T are also seen in the second figure of the chapter. Likewise, the second figure to be placed at the head of the thirty-third chapter serves the same purpose next to the letters m (which is also seen in the first figure), y, w, and *. Also, the figures illustrating the entire structure of bones shows these ossicles marked k. 2
Where the sesamoid ossicles are located
Therefore I shall not be amiss if I add at this point in what places I have found ossicles of this kind, at the same time suggesting that each person also look for them in more joints than the ones I am about to explain. For I have observed them little by little over the passage of time in more joints than at first glance
In the Hand
First, two ossicles (T in figs 1 and 2, ch. 25) 4 are located in the inner surface of the second joint of the thumb, where its first bone is articulated to the second; they are quite round and solid, not differing much in their shape from a grain of rice: they are a little shorter than an actual grain. But as a grain of rice appears depressed on one side, so also is a part of these ossicles depressed, slightly hollowed and coated with cartilage on that part where they are both attached to the first bone of the thumb. They lie on the inside of the head of the first bone [caput ossis metacarpalis I] near the root of the head where it first begins to be covered and smoothed with cartilage [cartilago articularis]; one ossicle occupies the outer side of the inner surface of the head, and the other the inner side of the same surface. Both allow the tendon [m. flexor pollicis longus, tendo] (h and then q in the 6th table of muscles) that flexes the third bone of the thumb to be borne through the interval by which they are separated from each other. Since these ossicles are strongly attached to that bone of the thumb, they are convex on the outside and resemble the part of a bone which puts forth ligaments and receives the insertion of tendons. In just this way two ossicles (V, V in fig. 1, ch. 25) are also found in the first internodes of the other fingers, 5 positioned in the same spot and smaller than the ossicles of the thumb the nearer you approach the little finger. The smallest and more or less cartilaginous ossicles are attached to the first joint of that finger [art. metacarpophalangealis V], or rather to the head of the metacarpal bone that supports the little finger. The remaining fingers are in an intermediate state. In old and (so to speak) bony people I have sometimes seen a single ossicle (corresponding to the one marked * in fig. 2, ch. 33) 6 located on the inner surface of the third joint of the thumb [art. interphalangealis pollicis], placed before the depression (L in fig 2, ch. 27) separating the heads of the second bone [phalanx proximalis] on its inner surface. Such an ossicle (X, X in fig. 1 ch. 25) has sometimes come to my attention in individual second and third finger joints, but so small as scarcely to equal the size of a millet seed. Unless you take the greatest care in cleaning bones, it may be discarded 7 (even as the ones in the first joints) along with the ligaments and never offer itself to view. An ossicle of noteworthy magnitude (N in figs. 1, 2, ch. 25) belonging to this type is generally observed where the metacarpal bone that supports the little finger is articulated to the eighth carpal bone [os hamatum]. This is how it is with the ossicles of the hand.
The ossicles in the foot
Similarly, in the foot we find one ossicle [os sesamoideum] (m in figs. 1, 2, ch 33) where the metatarsal bone 8 supporting the little toe [os digitorum V] is articulated with the bone that imitates a cube [os cuboideum], exactly corresponding to the last one I mentioned in the hand. In the first joints of the toes such ossicles (y, w in fig. 2, ch. 33) are hard to see, except in the toe; in the old, however, because they are rather large, they present themselves more readily. I have never found them in the second and third joints except in the second internode [art. interphalangealis hallucis] of the big toe, beneath which quite a large ossicle (* in the same figure) is attached. The ossicles which are placed under the first internode of the big toe are much more conspicuous, and the inner of these [y] is again far larger than the outer [w]. At the point where these are attached to the head of the metatarsal bone (which we shall explain enters the depression [facies articularis phalangis proximalis hallucis] of the first bone of the toe) they are slightly depressed, and being coated with cartilage they fit the convexity of that head handsomely. But on their lower surface [planta pedis] where they face the ground they are rounded, not unlike half of a hulled pea. 9 These are by far the most solid, and besides the fact that they are responsible for the first joint of the toe [art. metatarsophalangealis hallucis], they protect the tendon [m. flexor hallucis longus, tendo] (the ossicles will be seen below M in the 15th table of muscles; the tendon is d in the 14th table of muscles) by which the second bone of the big toe is flexed. They protrude on each side next to the tendon and elegantly prevent the tendon from being compressed by the pressure of the foot on the ground. 10
An ossicle more familiar to magicians and followers of occult
The second of these ossicles is the one mentioned so often by magicians and followers of occult philosophy when they say there is a certain bone in man resembling a chickpea, immune to all corruption, which they aver will lie hidden in the earth after death like a seed and will bring a person forth on the final day of judgement. 11 It is surely one of these bones, most likely the outer one [w], quite like a hulled chickpea if you compare it to half of the chickpea. Or, if you join both bones, you will have made a whole chickpea, so far as the appearance is concerned. In larger men the inner bone [y] is so large that a die could easily be made from it. But these bones differ from the fictions of the Arabs in that they can be broken and burned like the other bones. Yet they are certainly somewhat resistant to decay, and, as has been said before, solid. But debate over the doctrine by which they contend that a human being, whose infinite structure we are describing, is destined to be propagated out of such an ossicle we leave to theologians, who claim for themselves alone the free disputation and pronouncement about resurrection and the immortality of souls. Because of them, we shall offer no opinion about the marvelous and occult powers of the inner ossicle of the right big toe, no matter how much better the supply available to us of this bone from a hung thief or from time to time a lover, or from public dissections, than was available to those three ferocious harlots at Venice 12 who recently butchered an infant for the purpose of comparing this ossicle to the heart of a virgin boy and removed his living heart, and (as they richly deserved) paid the severest penalty for their crime.
That this ossicle was called Albadaran by the Arabs and by the truly occult and shadowy philosophers is better known by superstitious men than by students of anatomy, who may also be able to compare the fourth bone of the carpus [os pisiforme] to a chickpea. 13
Appendix The 1555 version of Chapter XXVIII
In addition to the bones explained in the three preceding chapters, certain other small bones [ossa sesamoidea] (T, V, X, X in fig. 1, ch. 25) occur in the hand, compared by anatomists to sesame seeds. Of what sort they are, where they are situated, and what their number is in man or even in monkey, no one I know has either observed or described, and still less has the use of those bones been systematically set forth precisely and truly. It is therefore timely for me here to describe how many ossicles of this sort I have so far discovered in the careful examination of muscles and tendons. In the inspection of muscles rather than bones, I have found no unsatisfying number of these ossicles, as much in the foot as in the hand, since most and in fact nearly all are attached to tendons. Coated on only one surface with smooth, slippery cartilage, 14 they come into contact with the smooth, slippery surface of a bone. They are never attached to the bone by special ligaments.
The construction of the patella demonstrates the nature of
In just this way we see the bone (fig. for ch 32; see also * in the 6th table of muscles and k in the 8th) in front of the knee joint, which we call the patella, attached to tendons 15 which extend the tibia. Indeed, in no other way will you more readily discover the makeup of the sesamoid bones than from the structure of the patella; for these ossicles are seen immersed in tendons and attached to them so that with their hardness they may sustain and absorb the impact in certain motions of the bone on which the tendon so augmented and protected is stretched. And while they check the impact of the bone, one would justifiably think that they also prevent the bone against which they are placed from becoming easily dislocated from its joint. The patella, as by far the largest sesamoid, nicely demonstrates their nature. They are larger and, in a manner of speaking, more numerous the older the person and the more you dissect the human body to study the bones. In children they are still cartilaginous and not very conspicuous in the // p. 153 // tendons where they are contained. They also present themselves in dogs and monkeys, and generally in other quadrupeds more than in man, a moister 16 animal and one possessed of less hard bones.
How many sesamoids occur in the hand
A man who has achieved his full growth has two ossicles [ossa sesamoidea] (T in fig. 1, ch. 25 and T in fig. 2, ch. 25) in the anterior side of the second joint of the thumb, placed in front of the head of the first bone [caput ossis metacarpalis I] of the thumb which enters the depression of the second bone [phalanx proximalis], attached to tendons of the muscles (1, 2, 3 in the 7th table of muscles) [m. adductor pollicis] that originate from the palm and flex the second joint of the thumb. These ossicles, scarcely larger than a fenugreek seed, are situated at the sides of the anterior part of the joint and permit the tendon [m. flexor pollicis longus, tendo] (q of muscle h in the 6th table of muscles) to ascend between them which will be thought to cause flexion of the thumb’s third joint. Just as these ossicles are seen at the second joint of the thumb, two others (V, V in fig.1, ch. 25) are seen at the first joints of the four fingers, smaller than the ones just mentioned, but like them contained in the short tendons of muscles [mm. interossei] that originate from the metacarpals and flex the first joints of the four fingers. On the anterior surface of the third joint of the thumb a single ossicle is discovered situated in front of the middle of the joint, its smooth surface matching the depression that is seen between the two capitula of the second bone of the thumb which go up into the depressions of the third bone for articulation. This ossicle is attached to the tendon [m. flexor pollicis longus, tendo] that flexes the third bone of the thumb and widens here for the joint. Another (X, X in fig. 1, ch. 25), much smaller than this and almost wholly cartilaginous, occurs in the second and third joint of the four fingers, matching the ossicle in the thumb joint in location and embedded in the tendon from which the joint to which the ossicle belongs obtains its flexion.
How many sesamoids are observed in the foot
All the sesamoids in the foot are identical with those of the hand, except that in the four toes they are much smaller and less easily seen to the degree that the fingers are larger than the toes. But as the big toe is formed of larger bones than the thumb, it has much larger ossicles [ossa sesamoidea] than the thumb. Two quite large sesamoids (y, w in fig. 2, ch. 33 and in the figure at the head of the present chapter) are placed beneath the first joint of the big toe next to the head of the metatarsal which is articulated to it. The inner [medial] of these is nearly half again as large as the outer nearer the second toe, more or less equal in size to half of a rather large pea cleaned of its skin, and even in its form it is not very unlike it. These two ossicles of the toe are attached to the sinewy part of the muscles [m. flexor hallucis brevis] (b in the 14th table of muscles) that flex the first bone of the toe, near their insertion. The ossicle (* in fig. 2, ch. 33) beneath the second joint of the toe is embedded in the tendon [m. flexor hallucis longus, tendo] (d, d of muscle L in the 14th table of muscles) that flexes the second bone of the toe, and is much smaller still than the outer of those that belong to the first joint of the toe.
Additional sesamoid ossicles
To the class of ossicles that we are treating in this chapter, someone will perhaps add the ossicle (N in figs. 1 and 2, ch. 25) that we see occasionally in the hand next to the connection of the metacarpal bone supporting the little finger at the eighth carpal bone [os hamatum], which nearly faces the tendon [m. extensor carpi ulnaris, tendo?] (d of muscle L in the 9th table of muscles) inserted here in the metacarpal, causing extension of the wrist. He will count two ossicles occurring in the back of the knee which are embedded in the heads (p, r, p, r, of muscles F, Y in the 12th table of muscles) of the first two muscles [m. gastrocnemius: caput mediale, caput laterale] that move the foot, early in their beginning from the femur. On their smooth and slippery surface where they project beyond the tissue of the muscles, these ossicles face the higher surface of the posterior region of the lower heads [condylus medialis, c. lateralis] (E, F in fig. 1, ch. 30) of the femur, whose movement they facilitate and support. Their special feature is that they are embedded at the beginning of muscles rather than in tendons, as are nearly all the other sesamoid ossicles. To these will perhaps be added the bony part occurring in the tendon of old people which by a unique stratagem of Nature bends back to the bone resembling a cube (X of muscle V in the 15th table of muscles) and belongs to the seventh of the muscles [m. fibularis longus, tendo] that move the foot. To these belongs the ossicle (near to k 17 in fig. 2, ch. 33) found more than once at the outer side of the articulation of the metatarsal bone supporting the little toe and the tarsus, at the insertion // p. 154 // of the tendon (b of muscle a in the 15th table of muscles) of the eighth of the muscles [m. fibularis brevis] moving the foot. But of all these, none is as large and hard as the inner of the two ossicles which are seen on the first joint of the toe. I therefore suspect that the magi and devotees of occult philosophy are thinking of this bone when they say there is a certain hard ossicle in man, subject to no corruption and resembling a chickpea; they aver that it lies in the earth after death like a seed, destined to bring a man forth on the final day of judgement. For this bone is situated in the lowest part of man and is especially hard. But even teeth lose their hardness, and this ossicle is no less subject to corruption than the teeth themselves. Moreover, the eighth carpal bone [os hamatum] (N in figs. 1, and 2, ch. 25) bears a better resemblance to a chickpea than this ossicle of the foot.
The Albadaran ossicle
But whether the Arabs and the truly occult and shadowy philosophers believe rightly that man will be made again from this ossicle that they call the Albdaran, I leave theologians to dispute who claim free disputation and opinion about resurrection and the immortality and destiny of the soul.