14 November 2007
GESNER, Conrad (1516-65). Historiae animalium. Frankfurt: Henricus Laurentius, 1617-21.
5 parts in 3 volumes, 2° (368 x 224mm). Woodcut vignettes on title-pages, woodcut initials, head and -tailpieces. Part I: 132 woodcuts and 3 engraved plates (trimmed to platemark and probably from another edition); Part II: 19 woodcuts; Part III: 239 woodcuts; Part IV: more than 630 woodcuts; Part V: 25 woodcuts. (Some browning, occasional wormholes, some affecting part of the text, neat repairs to a few leaves.) Contemporary brown calf, spine gilt (rebacked, worn). Provenance: Carol Theodor Menke (signature on front endpapers, 18th century).
A comprehensive overview of the natural world by Gesner, 'not only the best naturalist among the scholars of his day, but of all men of that century he was the pattern man of letters' (Wood 356). 'Conrad Gesner was one of the great polymaths of the Renaissance' and his work 'is an encyclopedia of contemporary knowledge, intended to replace not only mediaval compilations but even Aristotle's work of the same title ... It was many times reprinted ... and remained the standard reference book even as late as Linné and beyond, because neither Linné nor ray included illustrations' (PMM 77). The work is profusely illustrated with handsome woodcuts attributed to Lucas Schram of Strasbourg, and has an index in 7 languages. Nissen ZBI 1549-50, 1553 and 1556. (3)
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