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Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

curated by
Timothy D. Murray, Alexander Clark Johnston, Curtis Small

poster for Animal, Vegetable, Mineral Exhibition at University of Delaware Library Special Collections


image from Lyell's Elements of Geology

The University of Delaware Libary's exhibition "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral" presents selections from the extensive natural history collection of Special Collections, located on the Second Floor of the Morris Library. Natural history research, whether the work of amateur naturalists or highly trained scholars, has produced many of the most remarkable books ever printed, from the very first century of printing up to the present day. "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral" features an eclectic selection of natural history books from the fifteenth through the nineteenth centuries, including a 1511 printing of the Hortus Sanitatis, a late medieval natural historian whose woodcuts depict real animals alongside such fantasies as the unicorn and the manticore.


Image (right) from: Sir Charles Lyell's Elements of Geology. London: John Murray, 1838. Special Collections, University of Delaware Library.


Pages from Hortus Sanitatis

The exhibition also features foundational works on American zoology such as Alexander Wilson's American Ornithology (1808-1814) and John Edwards Holbrook's North American Herpetology (1842), which were among the first books to provide systematic, illustrated descriptions of their respective subjects; early treatises on geology and mineralogy such as Charles Lyell's Elements of Geology (1838) and Giovanni Maria Bonardo's La Minera del Mondo (1589); and scarce herbal descriptions such as a 16th-century translation of Dioscorides's De Materia Medica (50-70- CE).


Image (left) from: Hortus Sanitatis: De Herbis et Plantis, de Animalibus et Reptilibus, de Auibus et Volatilibus, de Piscibus et Natatilibus, de Lapidibus et in Terre Venis et Earum Speciebus, Tabula Medicinalis cum Directorio Generali per Omnes Tractatus. Strasbourg: Reinhard Beck, 1517. Special Collections, University of Delaware Library.


The full online version of "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral" will be appearing soon.

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