ANDREAS VESALIUS was a Renaissance explorer. The book that made him famous, "On the Fabric of the Human Body" of 1543, illustrates his findings. He'd discovered a new world, the one beneath the skin. His rare, expensive book is one of 29 in "Dream Anatomy" at the National Library of Medicine. Its flayed men stand like statues, its skeletons strike poses. Its pages are so big, so opulent and elegant, that one tends to overlook the distasteful work behind them. In hot and sunny Italy, the cutting of corpses could not have been much fun. Leonardo, Titian, Rembrandt, Thomas Eakins, too -- all were willing, nonetheless, to deconstruct cadavers. You can't depict the human form rightly unless you know in detail how it is put together. Most of the artists chosen by curator Michael Sappol were hugely skilled. They also were top-notch editors. No coagulating blood stains their pages. Their books leave out the mess.
-- Paul Richard
At the National Library of Medicine, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, through July 31. Open weekdays 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursdays until 9 p.m. and Saturdays 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Free. 888-346-3656.
THERE'S USUALLY A UNION organizer of some sort standing outside the venues where Billy Bragg performs, armed with a pen and petitions, urging concertgoers to sign up and get behind the labor movement. It's a smart strategy, because after a night in the company of this British lefty-rocker, you're ready for a socialist revolution. An heir to the protest folk tradition made famous by Woody Guthrie, Bragg is the rarest sort of rabble- rouser -- one with a sense of humor. His latest, "England, Half English" isn't one of his greats, but half the fun of a Bragg show is laughing along at the insights and stories he drops between songs. You'll leave the place humming and thoroughly radicalized.
-- David Segal
At the 9:30 club, 815 V St. NW. Tomorrow at 10 p.m. $25. Call 202-393-0930 or visit www.930.com
THE MEMBERS of the Capitol Woodwind Quintet -- three musicians from the National Symphony Orchestra and two from the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra -- have been making music together since 1977, when they were teamed up as artists-in- residence at an international arts festival in Venezuela. The group starts its 25th- anniversary season this afternoon with a program of works by Franz Danzi, Johannes Brahms, Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky (the last represented in a new transcription of his "Pastorale" by quintet horn player Laurel Ohlson).
-- Tim Page
At Temple Micah, 2829 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Today at 5 p.m. $16; $14 for senior citizens, $10 for students. Call 703-352-6506 or visit users.erols.com/trumanh/cwq/.