Science and the Artist's Book
An exhibition by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries and
the Washington Project for the Arts
Herald of Science
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Pliny the Elder
Historia naturalis [Natural history]
In his Natural History, Pliny wrote comprehensively
about the world that the Romans knew, emphasizing geographical
details and natural history. He had traveled widely through the
Roman Empire as an army officer, acquiring a wealth of
information about many lands and peoples. This first printed
version, designed to resemble a decorated medieval manuscript,
was published 1,400 years after Pliny wrote it.
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M.L. Van Nice
Somerville, Massachusetts, 1994
[seeds, bones, insect wings, feathers, wood, leather, paper, acrylic]
"In and around and under Pliny's writing and scholarship lies
the natural world," writes M.L. Van Nice. This artist favors an
intuitive approach to learning rather than Pliny's structured
encyclopedia format. Fascinated with her own inability to read
the original text, Van Nice creates an imaginative but unreadable
script, drawing elements from the natural world into the artist's
Herald of Science
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Discours de la méthode pour bien conduire sa raison et
chercher la vérité dans les sciences [Discourse
on a method for guiding reason, and discovering truth in the
Leiden, The Netherlands, 1637
The French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes
challenged old ways of thinking about science. Descartes, for
whom the Cartesian system of philosophy is named, argued that
doubt and reason are both necessary for determining truth, and
that the world and everything in it operates according to
mechanical principles. His Discourse ends with essays on optics,
meteorology, and analytic geometry, in which Descartes puts his
methods to work.
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Judith Mohns and François Deschamps
New Paltz, New York, 1994
In Cartesian Dreams, named for Descartes's system of
philosophy, Judith Mohns and François Deschamps pay homage
to the thinker. While recognizing his analytical genius, they
allude to Descartes's dreams and his personal life, seeking "to
balance the Cartesian [analytical] with the intuitive."