(Fortunately, for him, this particular patient is already a cadaver.)
Funny guy. Not.
Returning to the painting, the anatomy book he is using is also a fascinating piece of medical history - it is likely the De Humani Corporis Fabrica. The tableau we are witnessing was a common practice--medicine, as new and as daring as it was, was "medicine-as-theatre"--O.R. rooms were actually called theatres and people bought tickets. It was considered an elite social event.
This is an excellent example of the Renaissance painting technique known as chiarscuro, a technique of painting light and shadow in order to heighten the drama of the painting and control the focus of the viewer. Notice the light on Dr. Tulp's face (a symbol of his "enlightened knowledge) and the various levels of shadow and light painted on the faces of the students. These levels are also naturalistic due to the environmental lighting, which is an accurate portrayal of how surgery was lit in the 17th century. The "spotlight" is to the left and above cadaver (probably gaslit with a metal dome or parabola behind the gas). However, Rembrandt does not let this fall to mere chance and probably used some creative license in order to tell the story. Note the flat shading of the uppermost and leftmost students who fall into the shadow of ignorance, in contrast to the light closer to Tulp. (Who after all, as commissioner, expected flattery.)
The figures in the painting create a split focus on the body and the book, demonstrating both as texts of the Renaissance quest for knowledge. Not too far in the past, the use of cadavers and surgery was a forbidden practice. The knowledge that resulted from the lifting of this taboo very much turned the body into another "book" that scientists, philosophers and artists could study.