An encyclopedia with fascinating copperplate engravings by Matthäus Merian: Johnston's main work of the early modern period on birds

Historia Naturalis: De Avibus

Amsterdam (Netherlands) — 1657

Historia Naturalis: De Avibus

Historia Naturalis: De Avibus

Amsterdam (Netherlands) — 1657

  1. John Jonston's encyclopedia (1603–1675) was the primary work of zoology and botany in his day

  2. The Polish doctor and Renaissance man wanted to compile the knowledge of the world, and order it

  3. Countless birds and other winged animals bustle about colorfully in the 62 copperplate engravings y Matthäus Merian the Younger (1621–87)

Historia Naturalis: De Avibus

Historia Naturalis: De Avibus

Partridges

The top half of this page shows four different types of partridge. A so-called Perdix rußa” or “Russian partridge” is found in the upper left corner, probably the Daurian partridge. Moving clockwise, we see a grey partridge identified in both Latin and German, a rock partridge identified in Greek and German, and finally a so-called *Perdix Damasceaa that likely originated from the region around Damascus. All of these colored woodcuts are remarkable for their artistry and naturalism.

Historia Naturalis: De Avibus

Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

The wonderful, illustrated Book of Birds was a widely disseminated bestseller of the 17th century. It represents a volume of the five-volume Historia Naturalis of John Jonston. The Polish doctor and Renaissance man composed an encyclopedic overview for the history of animals, which was considered to be the standard work of zoology for a century. The series manifested in the years 1650–1653 in the publishing house of Matthäus Merian the Elder in Frankfurt am Main and experienced numerous translations and new editions. The success of the Historia Naturalis is particularly based on its illustrations from the hand of Matthäus Merian the Younger that were grandiose, loving, and simultaneously claimed to be scientific. Moreover, in the volume at hand of the Historia Naturalis de Avibus – the overview work for all kinds of birds – these copperplate engravings are magnificently colored.

Historia Naturalis: De Avibus

The wonderful, illustrated Book of Birds was a widely disseminated bestseller of the 17th century. It represents a volume of the five-volume Historia Naturalis of John Jonston. The Polish doctor and Renaissance man composed an encyclopedic overview for the history of animals, which was considered to be the standard work of zoology for a century. The series manifested in the years 1650–1653 in the publishing house of Matthäus Merian the Elder in Frankfurt am Main and experienced numerous translations and new editions. The success of the Historia Naturalis is particularly based on its illustrations from the hand of Matthäus Merian the Younger that were grandiose, loving, and simultaneously claimed to be scientific. Moreover, in the volume at hand of the Historia Naturalis – the overview work for all kinds of birds – these copperplate engravings are magnificently colored.

Avis: Blackbird, Cockatoo, and Phoenix

Countless birds and other winged animals bustle about colorfully on the 62 copperplate engravings of the total of 227 pages of the Historia Naturalis de Avibus. The beholder and reader is informed about splendid peacocks, numerous domestic birds, but also exotic and sometimes curious or fantastical animals such as a penguin or a phoenix. The encyclopedic overview work is subdivided into individual chapters, e.g. vultures, falcons, parrots, ravens, owls, chickens and geese, ducks and waterfowl. Among the Avis, Latin for bird, all winged creatures were then counted, including bats among others. Similar to a medieval bestiary, included successively alongside real animals were also such fantastical creatures as phoenixes, harpies, and winged lions from Greek mythology – naturally with a wink in the 17th century. The volume thus offers a wonderful glimpse in the first attempts at a science of animals!

A Tireless Teacher

The famous writer of the Historia Naturalis was John Jonston (1603–1675) of Poland. The unusual named belies his Scottich heritage. Jonston’s primary occupation was as a doctor, but he nonetheless busied himself with countless disciplines and sciences and can therefore be described as a Renaissance man. As a tutor and tour guide he transmitted his knowledge to young noblemen. Nevertheless, Jonston was famous because of his scientific-pedagogical writings on such manifold themes as child-rearing, philosophy and theology, history, but also medicine or minerology, with the famous Historia Naturalis in five volumes leading the way. With his writings, Jonston intended to make the collected knowledge of the time accessible.

An Encyclopedia of Animals

For his incomplete magnum opus, Jonston planned a comprehensive illustrated depiction of the world of animals, plants, and people. The five volumes about the world of animals, with the title of Historia Naturalis Animalium, was printed from 1650 to 1653 in the publishing house of Matthäus Merian the Younger, who had taken over the famous atelier of his father Matthäus Merian the Elder, in Frankfurt am Main. He was also responsible as a copperplate engraver as well as for the artistic design of the editions. He learned his craft from such famous names as Joachim von Sandrart and Anthonis van Dyck. 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.

Codicology

Size / Format
300 pages / 38.0 x 22.0 cm
Date
1657
Language
Illustrations
62 copperplate engravings
Artist / School
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus

Historia Naturalis: De Avibus

Golden Eagle

Here we have the most widely distributed species of eagle in the world and one of the largest – the golden eagle, Aquila chrysaetos. It is presented above in profile with its wing extended and a piercing gaze extending to some unknown target. Below, the eagle grasps the severed head of its prey in its right claw as it grooms its feathers with its beak.

Aside from the artistry and realism with which the feathers and other features of the golden eagle are depicted, its impressive talons are presented in detail and identified in German. The Golden eagle is distinguished by its long, impressive hallux-claw (hind claw), which is even longer than that of a bald eagle and second only to that of the massive harpy eagle.

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Historia Naturalis: De Avibus“

Historia Naturalis: De Avibus
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Avibus – Private Collection
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Historia Naturalis: De Avibus

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Siloé, arte y bibliofilia – Burgos, 2003
Limited Edition
898 copies
Binding
Leather
Commentary
1 volume
Language: Spanish
More Information
Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
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