Session 3. The Importance of Image: Visual and Linguistic Techniques in Early Modern Natural History
Everhard Kickius: the artist of Hans Sloane
Dr Sachiko Kusukawa, Trinity College, Cambridge
Drawings and printed images were integral to the study of natural history in the early modern period. Yet, the lives and works of the draughtsmen and engravers who helped naturalists visualize their world of nature are not well known. This paper will discuss the relatively unknown artist Edward Kickius, whose drawings for the Duke and Duchess of Beaufort and Hans Sloane have survived.
No audio recording available.
Image as Capital: Ghostwriting Albertus Seba's Thesaurus
Dr Dániel Margócsy, Hunter College
his paper investigates the economics of publishing luxurious encyclopedias of natural history through the example of Albertus Seba’s Thesaurus. The four volumes of the Thesaurus were published over the span of thirty years between 1734 and 1765. During these years, the original author died and Linnaeus revolutionized the discipline of natural history. My paper investigates how considerations of profit drove the post-mortem editors of the Thesaurus to continue publication even after Seba’s death, why they decided not to update the work to include the findings of Linnaeus and others, and why they hired a team of ghostwriters who were explicitly told to create the illusion that the whole work had been written by Seba.
'Yet it will not easily enter into our Imagination': Strategies employed by Martin Lister and John Ray to make natural history vivid
Dr Alexander Wragge-Morley, University College, London
The aim of this paper is to examine the place of vividness in some of the representational practices of Martin Lister (1639-1712) and John Ray (1627-1705).
We usually expect scientific representations, made in order to furnish us with knowledge of nature, to be faithful to their subject and precise in their execution. Natural historians of the seventeenth century, such as Lister and Ray, shared these expectations, although they formed their standards of faithfulness and precision in response to contemporary ideals and practices of representation. It is far harder to reconcile a quality like vividness to the purposes of scientific representation, since it implies a warmth and liveliness of expression. Yet, it was immensely important to Lister and Ray that representations of natural things, including those intended to produce knowledge, should be very vivid. Indeed, as they saw it, vividness was an effect that tended to the production of knowledge in the minds of their readers.
The paper takes as its starting-point a letter sent by Martin Lister to John Ray in 1670. There, Lister confessed to having deliberately mistranslated one of Aristotle’s descriptions of spiders in a set of inquiries for publication in the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions. Lister did not, as he confessed to Ray, alter the translation because he doubted the truth of Aristotle’s description. Instead, he did so because he found it flat and uninspiring: ‘Which Text, tho’ very plain in it self, yet it will not easily enter into our Imagination’. Starting with the materials relating to this remark, this paper examines the interest shown by Lister and Ray in the vividness of their graphic and verbal descriptions of natural things. Although they both wanted to spark the imaginations of their readers with vivid descriptions and illustrations, they adopted different strategies for doing so.
In the discussion of these strategies, the paper will offer some general remarks about the nature and purposes of natural history as it was construed by natural historians of Restoration England. What effects did Lister and Ray attribute to vivid representations, and what did they hope to achieve by using them?