The Science of Describing: Natural History in Renaissance Europe

Paperback | March 15, 2008

byBrian W. Ogilvie

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Out of the diverse traditions of medical humanism, classical philology, and natural philosophy, Renaissance naturalists created a new science devoted to discovering and describing plants and animals. Drawing on published natural histories, manuscript correspondence, garden plans, travelogues, watercolors, and drawings, The Science of Describing reconstructs the evolution of this discipline of description through four generations of naturalists.

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.

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From the Publisher

Out of the diverse traditions of medical humanism, classical philology, and natural philosophy, Renaissance naturalists created a new science devoted to discovering and describing plants and animals. Drawing on published natural histories, manuscript correspondence, garden plans, travelogues, watercolors, and drawings, The Science of D...

Brian W. Ogilvie is associate professor of history at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:402 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.2 inPublished:March 15, 2008Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226620883

ISBN - 13:9780226620886

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Figures
Preface and Acknowledgments
Conventions
1. Introduction
2. The World of Renaissance Natural History
3. The Humanist Invention of Natural History
4. A Science of Describing
5. Common Sense, Classification, and the Catalogue of Nature
6. Conclusion: What Was "Renaissance Natural History"?
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

"A tour de force, full of fascinating detail. Importantly, Ogilvie never gets lost in facts but rather successfully arranges them into a new challenging interpretive framework for understanding the emergence and the practice of Renaissance natural history. . . . Enormously engaging, and written with a passion that rivals that of the sixteenth-century naturalists themselves, this book can be heartily recommended to all who wish to learn more about the European origins of the modern investigation of nature."