first printed books with illustrations of animals did not reflect how
they actually looked in life and were attempts to illustrate Greek and
Roman texts based on descriptions of creatures that the artists had never
seen. In fact, many of the animals had lived much earlier and descriptions
of them had been translated repeatedly, each time losing more detail.
Natural History was the most important manuscript on the subject
from his death in 79 A.D. until the book was first printed in 1469. It influenced
all of the other early scientists including Aldrovandi. The Natural History
was a compilation of the science of the Classical Period. His most important
source was Aristotle, but he collected data from hundreds of authors, both
Greek and Roman. Unfortunately, Pliny was uncritical and included a great
deal of hearsay data that was later accepted as fact. However, without him,
much of the knowledge of the ancients would have been lost.
Historia naturale di Caio Plinio Secondo di lingua latina in fiorentina
tradocta per . . . Christophero Landino fiorentino. Venetia: per Marchio
Sessa & Piero di ravani bersano compagni . . 1516.
de herbis et plantis, de animalibus et reptilibus . . . Strasbourg:
Reinhard Beck, anno 1517.
The Hortus sanitatis
or the Ortus sanitatis (the origin of health), as it also
is known, is in the tradition of medieval herbals. The authorship
of this lavishly illustrated herbal is unknown but it is generally
believed to have been compiled by its original printer, Jacob Meydenbach.
It was first printed in 1491 in Mainz and is the last major medical
work to cover medicines only from the Old World. The sections on
animals and fish are reminiscent of a medieval bestiary. There are
images of harpies, centaurs, mermen, mermaids and unicorns. The
qualities of each creature are provided in vivid detail. Although
the unknown engraver of the illustrations was a skilled craftsman,
the images are not accurate because he did not always fully understand
what he was copying from earlier books.
Andrea Mattioli, 1500-1577.
Petri Andreś Matthioli senensis medici: commentarii in sex libros Pedacii
Dioscoridis. Venetiis: Ex Officina Valgrisiana, 1565.
Mattioli was a botanist and his books are considered to be among the best
of the sixteenth century herbals. He includes both fish and animals in
the herbals and his illustrations of small wildlife are among the most
accurate of the period.
The seventeenth century was the beginning of organized scientific thought
in Europe. It was the era of Galileo, Isaac Newton and Johannes Kepler.
In the seventeenth century, zoology books began to move from bestiaries
and mythical beasts into the more rational and organized world of natural
science. The most important invention of the seventeenth century in zoology
was the microscope, which enabled scientists to see things in a whole
new way. The illustration of microscopic discoveries allowed Robert Hooke
in Micrographia (1665) to show common insects as never before seen.
Insectorum sive minimorum animalium theatrum: olim ab Edoardo
Wottono, Conrado Gesnero, Thomaque Pennio inchoatum. Londini:
ex officin‚ typographic‚ T. Cotes, 1634.
is the first natural history book printed in England. Insectorum
was based largely on unpublished material gathered nearly a century
before by Conrad Gessner (1515-1565), one of the earliest natural
history writers. Thomas Penny, an entomologist, owned Gessner's
manuscript and added to it for fifteen years. After his death, the
manuscript was given to Moffett who completed the work. However,
the projected work was not published until thirty years after Moffett's
death. The published engravings for Insectorum are among the very
few of that era that can be compared to the original drawings because
the British Library still holds the original manuscript material.
Eusebio Nieremberg, 1595-1658.
Ioannis Evsebii Neirembergii Madritensis . . . Historia natvrae, maxime
peregrinae, libris XVI. Distincta. Antverpiae: ex officina Plantiniana
B. Moreti, 1635.
one of several Spanish Jesuits who wrote on natural history, based this
work on a manuscript by the explorer Francisco Hernandez, who had traveled
to Mexico in 1570. The book presents information about the cultures and
wildlife of Mexico, Central and South America, including descriptions
of 200 new species of birds.
Vlyssis Aldrouandi Patricii Bononiensis De quadrupedibus.
Bononiae: Apud Nicolau[m] Thebaldinum, 1639.
Aldrovandi was a true Renaissance man who established one of the
most acclaimed curiosity cabinets in European history containing
more than 18,000 specimens. By using these specimens, he was able
to study and describe the animals and plants in more detail than
his predecessors. This work on four- footed animals, published after
his death, includes large woodcuts of animals he studied as well
as fantastic creatures he had only heard about.
Die unbekante Neue Welt; oder, Beschreibung des Welt-teils Amerika,
und des Sud-Landes . . . Amsterdam: J. von Meurs, 1673.
translated title is The New and Unknown World; or Description
of America and the Southland . . . Montanus was a Dutch minister
and teacher who published a number of books on geography and history
and the peoples and cultures of other lands. He brought together
and popularized a variety of travel narratives. The book includes
maps and city views as well as images of native peoples and animals.
Since the work is derived from older travel narratives, it reproduces
previous errors. These included descriptions of sightings of mythological
Opusculorum pars prior; sive, Experimenta circa generationem insectorum.
Amstelaedami: Apud Henricum Wetstenium, 1685-1686.
is best known for his "Experiment circa generationem insectorum," in which
he disproves the doctrine of spontaneous generation in insects. The second
volume includes Redi's discussion of plants and animals brought back from
the Americas and the Indies.
restaurata: or, The Copper-plates of Dr. Hooke's Wonderful Discoveries
by the Microscop. London: Printed for and sold by J. Bowles,
Robert Hooke's famous work on the microscope was published in 1665.
It is known for its spectacular copperplate engravings of the miniature
world, particularly its fold-out plates of insects, and the text
itself reinforces the tremendous power of the new microscope. Micrographia
restaurata (restored) was a re-issue of Hooke's original plates
with an abbreviated and updated commentary.
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