Happy Valentine's Day: Images of the Heart from Fritz Kahn's Das Leben des Menschen


Happy Valentines Day! To celebrate, we're sharing images of the human heart from Fritz Kahn's modernist series on human anatomy and physiology, Das Leben des Menschen, published between 1921 and 1931. Though Kahn is best known today for the poster that accompanied this set, Der Mensch als Industrialpalast, it was the books themselves that were his greatest achievement.

Kahn, a German gynaecologist, was "arguably one of the most successful popular science writers internationally between 1920 and 1960" (Borck, "Communicating the  Modern Body", Canadian Journal of Communications). His illustrated science books combined nature and the human body with the zeitgeist of Weimar Germany: new technologies, rapid industrialisation, and the artistic experimentation of the Bauhaus and Dada movements. The resulting illustrative style remains as evocative today as it was nearly a century ago.

Das Leben des Menschen, Kahn's magnum opus, was a copiously illustrated five-volume set that began publication in 1921. "Prolonged by the inflation crisis of 1923 and the economic depression at the end of the 1920s, but also by the difficulties of containing the increasingly extensive material in the initially planned volumes, the book finally amounted to more than 1,600 pages, with the last of its fifty binders issued and distributed in 1931, a decade after the start of the project. More than a thousand illustrations were included in the five volumes, and almost 150 colour plates" (Borck).

Below, more images of the heart and circulatory system from Das Leben des Menschen, showing the different styles that his illustrations took, from realistic depictions of organs to industrial-style schematics, to fanciful landscapes imagined from the perspective of a tiny person standing inside the body.

Laura Massey
Laura Massey


Alembic founder Laura Massey holds a bachelor's degree in the history of science from Georgia Tech and a master's in book history (focusing on medieval and early modern scientific and medical books,) from the Institute of English Studies at the University of London. She has worked as a cataloguer, bookseller, and blogger in libraries and bookshops in the United States and Britain.

1 Comment

Yulanda Stanforth
Yulanda Stanforth

June 14, 2015

Marvelous details, thank you to the creator.

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