Historia Naturalis: De Quadrupedibus

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Codiology

Type
Extent / Format

400 pages / 38.0 x 22.0 cm

Origin
Date
1652
Style
Genre
Language
Artist / School

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

Illustrations

80 copperplate engravings depicting more than 350 animals

Short description

Whether dog, ape, or crocodile, all kinds of animals on four legs are assembled in the second volume of the famous Historia Naturalis by John Jonston about quadrupeds. The animals are classified and explained scientifically in the text and are visualized for the beholder with gorgeous, colored illustrations. The Polish doctor and Renaissance man John Jonston wrote an encyclopedic overview of the history of animals in five volumes with the title Historia Naturalis around the mid-17th century. The standard work of 17th century zoology appeared between 1650 to 1653 in the publishing house of Matthäus Merian the Younger in Frankfurt am Main. This “most broadly disseminated zoological handbook” experienced numerous republications and translations into other languages, still offering a magnificent and often curious glimpse into the world of zoology today.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Historia Naturalis: De Quadrupedibus

Whether dog, ape, or crocodile, all kinds of animals on four legs are assembled in the second volume of the famous Historia Naturalis by John Jonston about quadrupeds. The animals are classified and explained scientifically in the text and are visualized for the beholder with gorgeous, colored illustrations. The Polish doctor and Renaissance man John Jonston wrote an encyclopedic overview of the history of animals in five volumes with the title Historia Naturalis around the mid-17th century. The standard work of 17th century zoology appeared between 1650 to 1653 in the publishing house of Matthäus Merian the Younger in Frankfurt am Main. This “most broadly disseminated zoological handbook” experienced numerous republications and translations into other languages, still offering a magnificent and often curious glimpse into the world of zoology today.

The Renaissance Man John Jonston

John Jonston (1603-1675) was the son of Scottish parents, a doctor, and a Renaissance man from Poland. He was famous through his numerous writings and pedagogical purposes concerning such diverse topics as child-rearing, philosophy and theology, history, but also medicine and mineralogy. Jonston’s aim was to convey and pass on the collected knowledge of his time. He pursued this goal among others, including as a tutor and tour guide of young noblemen. He himself acquired his comprehensive knowledge while on un study tours and stays across Europe. John Jonston is still known today – especially to biologists and zoologists – for his magnum opus, the famous five-volume Historia Naturalis Animalium.

All Animals on Two Legs

The second band of the encyclopedic series under the title Historia Naturalis de Quadrupedibus is dedicated to quadrupeds. Johnson subdivided the animals in individual chapters, among others as equines, cloven hoofed animals, house pets, etc. Every possible animal is thoroughly described and illustrated in copperplate engravings in the work. The reader is informed about horses, elephants and camels, cattle, sheep, wild game, dogs and wolves, trained bears, apes, anteaters, rodents, but also reptiles such as crocodiles, chameleons, or tortoises. As a result, the classification does not always follow modern principles, but in this way it gives a magnificent glimpse in the zoological science of the 17th century. A curious anecdote concerns the template of Albrecht Dürer’s famous woodcut of a rhinoceros from the year 1515 used for the illustration of the animal. More than 200 years after its creation, the woodcut of the great master of the German Renaissance is still relevant!

Standard Work of Zoology

The Historia Naturalis de Quadrupedibus is only one of five volumes of the encyclopedic zoology of John Jonston. 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 took over the famous atelier of his father Matthäus Merian the Elder, as copperplate engraver was also responsible for the artistic design of the editions. The high-quality 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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