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Review of Sobotta's Atlas

Sobotta is a world-known classic among anatomy atlases which has already been translated into 14 different languages. It was first published by the German anatomist Johannes Sobotta in 1904.

In 2011, Elsevier/Churchill Livingstone printed the 15th international edition edited by the anatomy professor Friedrich Paulsen from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany. It consists of three books covering the musculoskeletal system (volume I), internal organs (volume II) and head, neck and neuroanatomy (volume III).

In addition, the set comes with a small booklet and an access code to a related website with further learning tools. In the past, Sobotta's had always purely been an anatomy atlas, the new edition though follows a completely new concept which combines the images with explanatory texts and, thus, tries to specifically fit the needs of preclinical medical students.

Sobotta - Atlas of Human Anatomy

Sobotta - Atlas of Human Anatomy


Each chapter contains an introduction with a rough overview of the topic. Following the introduction, each area or organ is uncovered step-by-step, starting from the surface and then gradually moving into the deeper layers.

At the end, topographical, cross-sectional and radiological images such as X-rays and CT scans round up the chapter. Throughout the book, numerous small text boxes provide you with further information, e.g. clinical applications or additional information about the physiology or pathologies associated with the organ being studied.

Sobotta Atlas of Human Anatomy - Photo of one page showing radiography of vessels of the lungs

One of the most striking features of Sobotta's is its high number of realistic images and descriptive schemes. The illustrations of the human body are extremely detailed and show even the smallest structures. At first, one could easily get confused by the crowded arrows, but the coloured labels help the reader avoid getting lost in a jungle of vessels, nerves and muscles. The included booklet is packed with tables comprising comprehensive information about every muscle, joint and nerve (e.g. origin and insertion, supplying areas etc.) which can be used for a quick review. Lastly, the book comes with an access code to a website where you can browse through every image of the atlas or quiz yourself.


The new edition of Sobotta's tries to build a bridge between a traditional atlas and a textbook (similar to the THIEME Atlas of Anatomy). For this reason, the editor has reduced the number of illustrations and filled the space with many explanatory texts. Even though the reader will find all the important illustrations for his or her gross anatomy course, there is no doubt that Sobotta's does not entirely replace an anatomy textbook. The information is too scarce to give the reader a complete understanding of the macroscopic anatomy.

Another point that has been criticised by medical students is that the illustrations are not as appealing to the eye as the ones found in other atlases, such as Netter's. Fact is that Sobotta’s images are more realistic and less plastic and, thus, some may find them not as “beautiful”. Nevertheless, this does not diminish the quality of the images and is really a question of taste in the end.


Sobotta's is an atlas with a long tradition with which even our professors learned when they were young students. The new edition tries to address the needs of today’s medical students by not only providing a complete atlas but further information about the function and pathologies of the structures and organs. The illustrations are very accurate and rich in detail and one will not miss even the tiniest artery or nerve in these books.

Despite the effort of providing many explanatory texts, it will still be necessary to read an additional textbook to completely understand the macroscopic anatomy. The new edition is currently sold for around $160, but if you are solely looking for a classic anatomy atlas without any explanatory texts you should consider the previous single volume edition for $140 instead. Either way, Sobotta's atlas of anatomy is a lifetime investment for your collection of medical books and will continue to be useful even long after graduating from medical school.

If you simply cannot afford the luxury of spending $140 or more for an anatomy book feel free to browse through Kenhub's free anatomy atlas and library. Our huge collection of colourful illustrations and descriptive articles will help you to understand the human body with ease. And if you are visual learner try out Kenhub's anatomy quizzes and videos which will guide you through the human body step-by-step with just a click of your finger and you will have learned the entire human anatomy faster than you think you could.

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Show references


  • F. Paulsen: Sobotta, Atlas of Anatomy - Musculoskelatal System, Internal Organs, Head, Neck, Neuroanatomy, Elsevier/Churchill Livingstone (2011), 15th revised edition
  • R. Putz, J. Sobotta, R. Pabst: Atlas of Human - Head, Neck, Upper Limb, Thorax, Abdomen, Pelvis, Lower Limb, Elsevier/Churchill Livingstone (2008), 14th edition

Author: Achudhan Karunaharamoorthy

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