The Science of Describing
Natural History in Renaissance Europe
In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, naturalists focused on understanding ancient and medieval descriptions of the natural world, but by the mid-sixteenth century naturalists turned toward distinguishing and cataloguing new plant and animal species. To do so, they developed new techniques of observing and recording, created botanical gardens and herbaria, and exchanged correspondence and specimens within an international community. By the early seventeenth century, naturalists began the daunting task of sorting through the wealth of information they had accumulated, putting a new emphasis on taxonomy and classification.
Illustrated with woodcuts, engravings, and photographs, The Science of Describing is the first broad interpretation of Renaissance natural history in more than a generation and will appeal widely to an interdisciplinary audience.
Association of American Publishers: PROSE Book Award
History of Science Society: Pfizer Award
—Florike Egmond, coeditor of Bodily Extremities: Preoccupations with the Human Body in Early Modern European Culture
"Splendid...Although this is a specialized subject, Ogilvie has organized his material well, making his book readily accessible through concise summaries of each chapter and friendly advice to skip the section on methodology. While he writes in a clear, non-technical style, his erudition and industry are made apparent by his extensive references to primary sources.”
Preface and Acknowledgments
2. The World of Renaissance Natural History
3. The Humanist Invention of Natural History
5. Common Sense, Classification, and the Catalogue of Nature
6. Conclusion: What Was "Renaissance Natural History"?