Historia Naturalis: De Exanguibus Acuaticis et Serpentibus

Historia Naturalis: De Exanguibus Acuaticis et Serpentibus

Amsterdam (Netherlands) — 1650–1653

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

  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. 32 tables with the wonderful copperplate engravings by Matthäus Merian the Younger (1621–87) depict over 300 animals

Historia Naturalis: De Exanguibus Acuaticis et Serpentibus

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  1. Description
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  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
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.

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.

Codicology

Size / Format
204 pages / 38.0 × 22.0 cm
Date
1650–1653
Language
Illustrations
32 copperplate engravings with more than 300 animal representations
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Historia Naturalis: De Exanguibus Acuaticis et Serpentibus – Private Collection
Siloé, arte y bibliofilia – Burgos, 2007
Limited Edition: 898 copies
Detail Picture

Historia Naturalis: De Exanguibus Acuaticis et Serpentibus

Horned Vipers

Ranging across Southeastern Europe and parts of Anatolia, the horned viper is a highly venomous snake. The word ammodytes is derived from Greek meaning “sand burrower”, although this name is deceiving because they prefer rocky hillsides to sand. Two variations – one green and another brown – are shown. Below them we see a black two-headed snake labelled Serpens Biceps, which has been born with polycephaly. Multi-headed snakes have appeared in various mythic traditions.

Historia Naturalis: De Exanguibus Acuaticis et Serpentibus
Single Page

Historia Naturalis: De Exanguibus Acuaticis et Serpentibus

Cephalopods

Of all the creatures of the sea, few are as interesting as cephalopods – a class of mollusk encompassing squids, cuttlefish, and octopuses. Characterized by their tentacles, prominent heads, bilateral body symmetry, and ability to shoot ink, they are extremely exotic in appearance and have the ability to change colors within milliseconds either for the purposes of communication or camouflage.

The page at hand presents these surprisingly intelligent creatures with an incredible color palette: the octopus in the upper left in a reddish orange with green eyes, the pastel-purple cuttlefish at the bottom, and the multicolored squid in between. These woodcuts are remarkable for their realism and careful attention to detail.

Historia Naturalis: De Exanguibus Acuaticis et Serpentibus
Facsimile Editions

#1 Historia Naturalis: De Exanguibus Acuaticis et Serpentibus

Siloé, arte y bibliofilia – Burgos, 2007
Historia Naturalis: De Exanguibus Acuaticis et Serpentibus – Private Collection
Historia Naturalis: De Exanguibus Acuaticis et Serpentibus – Private Collection Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Siloé, arte y bibliofilia – Burgos, 2007
Limited Edition: 898 copies
Binding: Leather
Commentary: 1 volume
Language: Spanish
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) 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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