going forward with the "true eye of a lynx" to study the very anatomy of nature
February 27, 2008 2:53 PM   Subscribe

"While we are generally horrified by monstrosities in the case of human beings, we love them in fruit" - Giovanni Battista Ferrari (naturalist, "discoverer" of the blood orange and the cure for scurvy). Illustrations in Ferrari's book Hesperides sive de Malorum Aureorum cultura (1646) are based on close collaboration with Cassiano dal Pozzo and his Paper Museum, called one man's project to "commission drawings of all known antiquities, and to attempt to systematically categorize this vast repertory of visual images."

This collection of over 7,000 seventeenth century illustrations, drawings, and prints -- now held by the Royal Collection -- is being assembled, cataloged and published in thirty-four separate (expensive) volumes with every item reproduced. It contains the work of the Linceans and the first illustrations created with the use of a microscope. Most of the non-fruit illustrations have never before been published.

tl;dr? Here are some links to "the good stuff": highlights of the Paper Museum with Sir David Attenborough, article on the Paper Museum's discovery by David Freeberg in Natural History (1990), three scholarly articles from David Freedberg about the collection Ferrari and the pregnant Lemons of Pietrasanta, Cassiano dal Pozzo, Natural Historian, Ferrari on the Classification of Oranges and Lemons (more) [via]
posted by jessamyn (12 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
This from a professor Hebrew and Rhetoric. I love a good generalist.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:05 PM on February 27, 2008

professor of Hebrew and Rhetoric.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:05 PM on February 27, 2008

Awesome post thanks jessamyn. There is a lot to be savoured in there. I'm not sure why, but I've mostly shied away from pomological works. They certainly had a unique way of presenting the fruit in Hesperides.

-The Linceans remain today, but enjoy little governmental funding, and because "full" membership is capped at 150 members, scientists can wait decades for full membership. The average membership age is 76.-
posted by peacay at 5:37 PM on February 27, 2008

Great stuff! I just bought some blood oranges at the grocery store the other day (first time I'd seen them in my little town) and my family loved them. I thought they were something "new."
posted by amyms at 6:21 PM on February 27, 2008

One of the things that was really interesting to me and that the "expensive" link highlights is how much of the content of this totally awesome Paper Museum is being locked up in very expensive books. I'm not suggesting they toss it all up on Flickr, though that would be neat, but as I was digging around to find the illustrations which are really the most excellent part of this whole story (and what captivated me while reading Amazing Rare Things) they are really few and far between online especially the ones that have been published already [fruits, for example]. It's maddening because the entire purpose of the original Museum was to catalog and LEARN from what dal Pozzo had collected and while I'm enthusiastic about them putting more things online, I don't think it has the same effect as massive distribution via the internet, which is a damned shame about how they chose to go about this.

Then again, there is a sense that all of this is sort of hype-y boosterism intended to sell these books in the first place, though Freeberg really seems like the real deal and I'm looking forward to mucking about in his pdfs.
posted by jessamyn at 6:33 PM on February 27, 2008

Thanks for the links to the good stuff. Why wouldn't they create a bunch of Flickr sets? I'm kinda naive when it comes to academic types (even while working around a bunch), but why would they want to keep and hoard the good stuff to themselves? I'm asking this seriously, not as snark.

I could get lost in looking at illustrations from this era. I'm surprised there haven't been too many modern day comics that have lifted more directly from that look.

And, Codex Seraphinianus comes to mind. speaking of Flickr sets.

posted by not_on_display at 7:40 PM on February 27, 2008

Great post!
posted by pantufla at 9:15 PM on February 27, 2008

Freedberg's book The Eye of the Lynx: Galileo, His Friends, and the Beginnings of Modern Natural History contains an interesting, if (necessarily) very small selection of images from the paper museum. I, too, wish the Royal Collection would undertake a project to exhibit more of these wonderful images online.
posted by misteraitch at 11:03 PM on February 27, 2008

Scientific illustration is wonderful stuff. This reminds me of the glass flowers of Leopold Blaschka - he also made glass diseased fruit.
posted by dreamyshade at 12:15 AM on February 28, 2008

Scientific illustration is wonderful stuff.

It really is. I understand that photography in many ways improved the processes, as it arguably took any bias the illustrator may have had out of the equation, but there is something really neat about some of the old drawings.

Particularly when you realize that while accurate representations; you could probably identify a three toed sloth after looking at the illustration, they weren't necessarily flattering to the subject. (e.g. that is one chubby African civet.)
posted by quin at 8:51 AM on February 28, 2008

The thing that Attenborough points out in the Amazing Rare Things book is that at least some of the natural illustration were made from dead/stuffed animals. So, the sloth was portrayed as standing on its pointed toes, which was pretty much impossible sloths can barely walk on land, because people could not get their head around the fact that it lived its life hanging from trees and except for the explorers who sent the things back to the UK no one had really ever seen one in the wild. Likewise the civet looks a little odd because the big deal about them is the musk that comes from their anal glands so they made damned sure to show the civet's entire anal region which makes it look chubby and weird.
posted by jessamyn at 9:00 AM on February 28, 2008

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