Historia Naturalis: De Exanguibus Acuaticis et Serpentibus

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Codiology

Type
Extent / Format

204 pages / 38.0 x 22.0 cm

Origin
Date
1650-1653
Style
Genre
Language
Artist / School

Author: Johannes Jonstonus (John Jonston) (1603 - 1675)
Engraver: Matthaeus Merian The Younger (1621 - 1687)

Illustrations

32 copperplate engravings, with more than 300 animal representations

Short description

The Historia naturalis animalium, written by the Polish Renaissance man John Jonston in the mid- 17th century, was long considered to be the standard work of zoology in Europe. This “most broadly disseminated zoological handbook” experienced numerous republications and translations into other languages. The encyclopedic overview work about the history of animals assembles numerous descriptions of animals in five books. Tables with wonderful copperplate engravings by Matthäus Merian the Younger illustrate the zoological work. One volume of the series concerns itself with the Historia naturalis de exanguibus acuaticis et serpentibus, so with bloodless aquatic animals, snakes, and reptiles. As a part of the zoology of John Jonston, today it simultaneously offers a scientific and entertaining overview of these animals.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Historia Naturalis: De Exanguibus Acuaticis et Serpentibus

The Historia naturalis animalium, written by the Polish Renaissance man John Jonston in the mid- 17th century, was long considered to be the standard work of zoology in Europe. This “most broadly disseminated zoological handbook” experienced numerous republications and translations into other languages. The encyclopedic overview work about the history of animals assembles numerous descriptions of animals in five books. Tables with wonderful copperplate engravings by Matthäus Merian the Younger illustrate the zoological work. One volume of the series concerns itself with the Historia naturalis de exanguibus acuaticis et serpentibus, so with bloodless aquatic animals, snakes, and reptiles. As a part of the zoology of John Jonston, today it simultaneously offers a scientific and entertaining overview of these animals.

Muscles, Snakes, and Four-Headed Dragons

Across 204 pages, the volume of the Historia Naturalis de exanguibus acuaticis et serpentibus collects a total of 32 tables with the wonderful copperplate engravings of Matthäus Merian. Over 300 animals are pictorially represented here in addition to the text. The section about bloodless aquatic creatures contains an overview of mollusks, shellfish, and crustaceans. Following thereafter is a chapter on snakes and reptiles. The copperplate engravings – expertly executed and of the highest quality – show squids, all kinds of crabs, sea stars, and other aquatic animals. Additionally, there is a diverse list of muscles, jellyfish, sea urchins, etc. Countless snakes slither across the pages of the second section, which are detailed with their respective patterns and in all possible sizes. The three last miniature pages of the text concern themselves with dragon-like animals. Here again, curious and fantastical creatures are depicted: snakes with multiple heads or with small wings and feet.

The Renaissance Man John Jonston

John Jonston (1603-1675) was the son of Scottish parents, a doctor, and a Renaissance man from Poland. Through tours and visits of study across all of Europe, John collected a general knowledge that encompassed a variety of disciplines, which he transmitted as a tutor and tour guide to young nobles. He was famous nevertheless through his scientific-pedagogical writings concerning such diverse topics as child-rearing, philosophy and theology, history, but also medicine and mineralogy, all before the famous five-volume Historia Naturalis. Jonston did not want to write down any new knowledge, but rather to spread preexisting knowledge. Therefore, he drew on sources from ancient and contemporary authors and collected his findings in an encyclopedic work.

Standard Work of Zoology

For his incomplete magnum opus, Jonston planned a comprehensive illustrated depiction of the world of animals, plants, and people. The Historia Naturalis Animalium was printed from 1650 to 1653 in the publishing house of Matthäus Merian the Younger in Frankfurt am Main. Merian (1621-1687), who learned from Joachim von Sandrart and Anthonis van Dyck, was active as a painter, copperplate engraver, and publisher. He undertook the artistic design of the editions on behalf of John Jonston and published the series in the famous Frankfurt atelier of his father, Matthäus Merian the Elder, which he had taken over. The marvelous illustrations, colorfully illustrated moreover, lend the sophisticated publication its final touches and are surely a reason for the exceptional popularity of the Historia Naturalis across Europe.

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