Journeys over Land and Sea
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Journeys over Land and Sea Journeys of the Mind Journeys of the Imagination

Journeys Over Land and Sea: Botany and Zoology

Direct observation of specimens brought to Europe from foreign lands replaced earlier depictions of the natural world with more accurate, less fanciful descriptions. Explorers in the Americas contributed new data about those continents.



[Gart der Gesundheit] (The garden of health)
Ulm?: Konrad Dinckmut?, 1487?.
Gift of E.R. Squibb & Sons and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.

[Gart der Gesundheit] Gart der Gesundheit is one of the first printed herbals to be published in a vernacular language instead of Latin. Herbals combined folklore and home remedies, information from classical sources, and religious symbolism into a popular mix of botanical and medical advice. Because text and woodcut images were often copied from earlier works, rather than drawn from nature, herbals became increasingly imprecise over time. While some illustrations remain identifiable, even charming to the modern eye, others are unrecognizable, frustrating both contemporaries and modern researchers.

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Thirty Plates Illustrative of Natural Phenomena, etc.
London: The Society for Promoting Christian Knoledge, 1846.
Gift of the Burndy Library

Thirty Plates Illustrative of Natural Phenomena, etc. This work contains beautiful color illustrations of various natural phenomena, including icebergs, waterspouts, and glaciers. Its publisher, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, was founded in 1698 as an arm of the Church of England. The Society produced not only theological books but also works on popular science, travel, biography, and fiction.

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Henry Walter Bates (1825-1892)
The Naturalist on the River Amazons [sic.]
London: John Murray, 1863. 2 vols..
Gift of the Burndy Library

The Naturalist on the River Amazons [sic.] The Englishman Henry W. Bates, fascinated by entomology since childhood, traveled with naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace to Brazil in 1848. He stayed for 11 years, collecting butterflies and other insects in the Amazon rain forest. Despite ill health and unimaginable difficulties, he collected specimens of more than 10,000 animal species, 8,000 of which were new to Western science.

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Mark Catesby (1682-1749)
The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands
London: for the author, 1731-43 [1729-48]. 2 vols..
Gift of Marcia Brady Tucker

The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands The two-volume magnum opus of Mark Catesby is the product of one manís dedication and effort, from his years of travel and research to his hand-coloring of the printed plates (which he learned to etch himself so as to implement his own technique for indicating feathers). Eighteenth-century classifier Carolus Linnaeus cited more than a hundred of his species descriptions, and the book is the first fully illustrated work on the flora and fauna of southeastern North America. Plants and animals often are grouped in their natural associations, and the folio format allowed many species to be depicted lifesize.

The Smithsonian Libraries holds a magnificent copy of the first edition, complete with the rare prospectus and the advertisement for the Appendix, in a contemporary full-leather binding. The book has a distinguished provenance that traces back to the Abdy family, noted for its support of natural history publications in 18th-century England, and more recently to noted ornithology-book collector Evan Morton Evans (1870-1955).

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Theobaldus Episcopus
Phisiologus . . . de naturis duodecim animalium (On the nature of animals)
[Cologne]: Henricus Quentell, [1494].
Gift of the Burndy Library

Phisiologus . . . de naturis duodecim animalium Fantastical monsters were a common feature of medieval bestiaries, which derived from classical texts of the second to fourth centuries A.D. The bestiary incorporated oral traditions, travelersí tales, Christian symbolism, and allegory into a compendium of moralizing tales based on animals familiar, exotic, and sometimes imaginary. Copied and recopied in manuscript form over a thousand years, these texts became more varied and elaborate when printed versions proliferated in the late 1400s. The genre as a whole, however, was soon superceded by the more scientific works of the Renaissance.

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John Coakley Lettsom (1744-1815)
The Naturalist's and Traveller's Companion, containing Instructions for Collecting & Preserving Objects of Natural History. 2nd ed
London: E. & C. Dilly, 1774.
Charles W. Richmond Collection

The Naturalist's and Traveller's Companion, containing Instructions for Collecting & Preserving Objects of Natural History. 2nd ed Battling careless handling, rot, bugs, and inadvertent damage, European scientists and collectors exercised considerable ingenuity in getting specimens safely home for study and in keeping them safe once there. In 1772, Lettsom, a British physician who had a private natural history museum and botanical garden, produced one of the earliest and most handsome manuals on collecting, preparing, transporting, and preserving scientific specimens. Charles W. Richmond, a Smithsonian ornithologist and bibliographer, acquired this book in the early 1900s.

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Titian Ramsay Peale (1799-1885)
Mammalia and Ornithology
Philadelphia: printed by C. Sherman, 1848.

Mammalia and Ornithology Peale, the youngest son of American artist Charles Willson Peale, was one of the naturalists appointed to the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838-42. Because Charles Wilkes, the expeditionís leader, objected to parts of Pealeís report, and other naturalists criticized his taxonomic nomenclature, Pealeís volume was suppressed shortly after it was published. Pealeís plates survive in the official expedition report by John Cassin, which also quotes Pealeís field observations at length. The Smithsonian Libraries holds two copies of Pealeís extremely rare work, all in their original bindings.

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Pliny the Elder (about A.D. 23-79)
Naturalis historia (Natural history)
Frankfurt: Martin Lechler, 1582.
Gift of the Burndy Library

Naturalis historia Naturalis historia is the most thorough zoological and botanical treatise known from the ancient world. Gaius Plinius Secundus, a well-traveled military officer of the Roman Empire and a naturalist, attempted to record all knowledge of the world and nature, preserving that written by earlier authors and adding to it from his own observations. A man of intense curiosity, he died after venturing too close to the erupting Mount Vesuvius. The 1582 edition, with woodcuts by artists Jost Amman and Hans Weidlitz, is one of the few illustrated versions among the 15 editions (published from 1469 to 1800) that are held in the Smithsonian Libraries.

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Levin Vincent (1658-1727)
Elenchus tabularum . . . , in gazophylacio Levini Vincent (A series of illustrations . . . of Levin Vincentís collection of the marvels of nature)
Haarlem: Sumptibus Auctoris, 1719.

Elenchus tabularum . . . , in gazophylacio Levini Vincent In the spirit of exploration and inquiry that began to emerge in Europe in the late 1500s, individuals of means took to assembling collections of curiosities. Some served as aids in classifying all known plants and animals. Among its varied holdings, the natural history collection of Dutch merchant Levin Vincent contained animals preserved in alcohol, skeletons and skins, and plants dried and pressed on paper. These same items, as well as books, remain the core materials of taxonomy and systematics, fields of research that continue today at the Smithsonian.

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Charles Wilkes (1798-1877)
Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition . . .
Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 1845. 5 vols. and atlas.

Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition . . . By the 1830s, the United States determined to assert itself in the economic and scientific exploration of the Pacific, including the western coast of North America. Lt. Charles Wilkes, U.S. Navy, led the first official scientific expedition to the region in 1838. Navigators and hydrographers, along with scientists, naturalists, and artists, explored areas from Alaska to Antarctica for five years. The materials they collected are preserved at the Smithsonianís National Museum of Natural History and are still invaluable for the study of the peoples, animals, plants, and geography of the eastern Pacific.

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