Discovery and experimental proof of the circulation of the blood. Together with Vesalius’s Fabrica (1543), Harvey’s De motu cordus shares the honor as the greatest book in the history of medicine. Since antiquity, ideas about the physiology and pathology of most parts of the body had been based to an important degree on assumptions made about the function of the heart and blood vessels. In fundamentally changing the conception of these functions, Harvey pointed the way to reform of all of physiology and medicine.
Why Harvey chose a European publisher for his book has long provoked speculation— the most plausible conjecture is that Harvey wanted his book published on the Continent so that it would more easily gain international distribution and acceptance. His choice of the Frankfurt publisher William Fitzer seems to have arisen from his long acquaintance with Robert Fludd, whose books were then being published by Fitzer.The physical distance between Harvey and his publisher seems to have precluded Harvey from correcting proofs, as he was compelled to issue an errata leaf with no less than 126 corrections. Since very few copies of De motu cordis include this errata leaf, it has been argued that it was probably added after a large portion of the edition had already been sold. Even so, Harvey's errata list must have been compiled with some haste, as the Latin text edited by Akenside for the College of Physicians in 1766 contains 246 emendations. Fitzer had Harvey's book printed on paper of poor quality, which has deteriorated in virtually all surviving copies. The first edition must have been relatively small since only about 68 copies have survived, nearly all in institutions. Reprinted in facsimile in 1928 (Monumenta medica, Vol. 5, Florence). The Latin text, with an English translation by K. J. Franklin, was published in Oxford, 1957, and a translation with introduction and notes was published by G. Whitteridge in 1976 (Oxford, Blackwell). See also No. 6l.l. Digital facsimile from The Warnock Library at this link.