Chap. II.

That a Man hath one rib less then a woman.

THAT a Man hath one Rib less then a Woman, is a common conceit derived from the History of Genesis, wherein it stands delivered, that Eve was framed out of a Rib of Adam; whence 'tis concluded the sex of man still wants that rib our Father lost in Eve. And this is not only passant with the many, but was urged against Columbus in an Anatomy of his at Pisa, where having prepared the Sceleton of a woman that chanced to have thirteen ribs on one side, there arose a party that cried him down, and even unto oaths affirmed, this was the rib wherein a woman exceeded. Were this true, it would ocularly silence that dispute out of which side Eve was framed; it would determine the opinion of Oleaster, that she was made out of the ribs of both sides, or such as from the expression of the Text1 maintain there was a plurality of ribs required; and might indeed decry the parabolical exposition of Origen, Cajetan, and such as fearing to concede a monstrosity, or mutilate the integrity of Adam, preventively conceive the creation of thirteen ribs.

But this will not consist with reason or inspection. For if we survey the Sceleton of both sexes, and therein the compage of bones, we shall readily discover that men and women have four and twenty ribs, that is, twelve on each side, seven greater annexed unto the Sternon, and five lesser which come short thereof. Wherein if it sometimes happen that either sex exceed, the conformation is irregular, deflecting from the common rate or number, and no more inferrible upon mankind, then the monstrosity of the son of Rapha,[2] or the vitious excess in the number of fingers and toes. And although some difference there be in figure, and the female os inominatum be somewhat more protuberant, to make a fairer cavity for the Infant; the coccyx sometime more reflected to give the easier delivery, and the ribs themselves seeme a little flatter, yet are they equal in number. And therefore while Aristotle doubteth the relations made of Nations, which had but seven ribs on a side, and yet delivereth, that men have generally no more then eight; as he rejecteth their history, so can we not accept of his Anatomy.

Again, Although we concede there wanted one rib in the Sceleton of Adam, yet were it repugnant unto reason and common observation that his posterity should want the same. For we observe that mutilations are not transmitted from father unto son; the blind begetting such as can see, men with one eye children with two, and cripples mutilate in their own persons do come out perfect in their generations. For the seed conveyeth with it not only the extract and single Idea of every part, whereby it transmits their perfections or infirmities; but double and over again; whereby sometimes it multipliciously delineates the same, as in Twins, in mixed and numerous generations. Parts of the seed do seem to contain the Idea and power of the whole; so parents deprived of hands, beget manual issues, and the defect of those parts is supplied by the Idea of others. So in one grain of corn appearing similary and insufficient for a plural germination, there lyeth dormant the virtuality of many other; and from thence sometimes proceed above an hundred ears. And thus may be made out the cause of multiparous productions; for though the seminal materials disperse and separate in the matrix, the formative operator will not delineate a part, but endeavour the formation of the whole; effecting the same as far as the matter will permit, and from dividing materials attempt entire formations. And therefore, though wondrous strange, it may not be impossible what is confirmed at Lausdun concerning the Countess of Holland,[3] nor what Albertus reports of the birth of an hundred and fifty. And if we consider the magnalities of generation in some things, we shall not controvert its possibilities in others: nor easily question that great work, whose wonders are only second unto those of the Creation, and a close apprehension of the one, might perhaps afford a glimmering light, and crepusculous glance of the other.


* [My or others' notes are in square brackets]; Browne's marginalia is unmarked; {passages or notes from unpublished material by Browne is in curly braces}.

1 Os ex ossibus meis. [Gen. 2:23 in the Vulgate, which continues "et carno de carne", although it seems that nobody makes as much of the flesh as of the rib(s).]

2 [1 Chron. 20:6; he had 24 fingers and toes. He was also a giant.]

3 [She bore 365 children; you may still see at Leusden the baptismal fonts used for their baptism. See a version of the story at Multiple Births in Legend and Folklore.]

This page is dedicated to the memory of Boo the Cat.

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional