The magnetic resonance imaging appearance of the proximal interphalangeal joints of cadavers was correlated with histology of the same specimen allowing many small-scale features to be identified that might otherwise have been misinterpreted. It enabled the magnetic resonance signal to be understood at a tissue and cellular level, allowing identification of synovial folds extending from the extensor tendon and volar plate, the entheses of the proper collateral ligament, the epitenon of the flexor tendons and the presence of osteophytes and sites of cartilage erosion. The main difficulties in matching two-dimensional magnetic resonance images with histology were the differing section thicknesses of the two methods and shrinkage of histological specimens. There are many advantages in producing high resolution three-dimensional datasets—the magnetic resonance section thickness is reduced and the individual components of the joint can be viewed simultaneously in two or more planes. A unique magnetic resonance atlas of three dimensional joint structure is presented.