Book One -- The things that sustain and support the entire body, and what braces and attaches them all. [the bones and the ligaments that interconnect them] | Chapter 5 The Structure of the Head: Why It Is Shaped As It Is, and How Many Configurations It Has

APPENDIX A: Natural Shapes of the Skull: 1555 version

Now all persons define the most natural and pleasing shape of the skull (figure 1, and most of those in chapter 6) as one which looks like a sphere slightly compressed towards the front on either side; and as if because of the compression, it is made much narrower in front than behind. Galen attributes this shape to the brain, adding that the skull, since it is the container of the brain, and as it were its helmet and defense, must reflect its shape. 31 He explains besides why the cerebellum is placed next the posterior part of the cerebrum, and why the dorsal medulla proceeds from it: in the anterior part (he says), processes are put forth from the brain to the organs of smell and the eyes. But we shall easily show in the seventh book that the brain needed no particular shape, and its posterior part juts backward more than the cerebellum itself (figures 1-2, Book 4, chapter 2); in addition, the olfactory processes and optic nerves originate from about the middle of the base of the brain, not from its anterior part, with the result that the design of the brain presents no obstacle why we should not see a skull like a perfect globe or sphere, the shape best suited to repelling injuries. But provision had to be made for the upper maxilla, nose, eye sockets, and temporal muscles; also, because of the skull’s connection with the dorsal vertebrae, the posterior part of the head needed to be made broader and larger, at least if the fact of its own weight was not to be neglected. Hippocrates 32 is seen to have attributed the cause of the shape that we call natural to midwives and nurses when he states that some people believed elongated heads were beautiful and therefore compressed the heads of infants into that shape, and finally heads were reproduced by nature into this oblong shape. It is known that many nations acquire some unique quality in the shape of their head almost in the same way. For example, the heads of the Genoese and to an even greater extent the Greeks and Turks look almost like a sphere because their midwives often comply with the fervent requests of mothers for this look (which many of them consider elegant and well suited to the head covering that they variously employ). Germans are often seen with compressed occiput and a wide head because as infants they always lie on their backs in their cradles and are tied by their hands, almost without swaddling clothes, to the sides of their cradles on both sides. The Belgians as a rule retain longer heads than others because their mothers wrap their infants in swaddling bands and let them sleep on their side, particularly on their temples. 33 However that may be, anatomists call that shape of head natural which is constructed most like an oblong sphere, having the forward and posterior part more prominent.



Book One -- The things that sustain and support the entire body, and what braces and attaches them all. [the bones and the ligaments that interconnect them] | Chapter 5 The Structure of the Head: Why It Is Shaped As It Is, and How Many Configurations It Has