Sunday, January 27, 2013

"Historiae Animalium", 16th Century

Conrad Gessner (1516–died in 1565, aged only 49) was a Swiss naturalist author of the great "Historiae animalium", considered the beginning of modern zoology and the first attempt to describe all of the world’s known animals. The collection appeared in 4 vols. (2 for quadrupeds, birds and fishes). A fifth volume (for snakes) was being issued in 1587. As Gessner was protestant, there was extreme religious tension at the time "Historiae animalium" came out, and finally this amazing collection was added to the Roman Catholic Church's list of prohibited books (Under Pope Paul IV). Wikipedia as an excellent article about the "Index Librorum Prohibitorum"
File:Index 1557.jpg
Title page of the first Papal Index, Index Auctorum et Librorum, published in 1557. Conrad Gessner and his book "Historiae Animalium" were included even before the diffusion of the codex...

Imagine the wonder of an European average citizen of the 16th century would have felt at seeing pictures of Elephants, Rhinos and Lions or even myth animals that were included as real or existing animals... Illustrations are of remarkable quality and charm
Seven head hydra was included by Gessner on his animal compilation

10 | Конрад Геснер. Historiae Animalium - Истории животных |

9 | Конрад Геснер. Historiae Animalium - Истории животных |

To his contemporaries, conrad Gessner was best known as a botanist, although his botanical manuscripts were not published long after his death, the “Historiae plantarum” (1541, direct link to the digitized copy provided, hosted on Google Books-good job google!- but still have to improve...) and the “Catalogus plantarum” (1542, again link to the digitized copy provided, in this case hosted on BSB -a classic digital library for me- under their "MDZ-reader" which I don´t like but is what they have, so far).

In 1545 Konrad Gessner published his remarkable “Bibliotheca universalis”, supposedly a catalogue of all writers who had ever lived (!!), with the titles of their works. A second part, “Pandectarum sive partitionum universalium libri”, appeared in 1548. The last, a theological encyclopaedia, was published in 1549, but the last but one, intended to include his medical work, was never finished.

  • "Conrad Gessner," in Encyclopedia of the Scientific Revolution from Copernicus to Newton, ed. Wilbur Applebaum, New York, Garland, 2000, 265-266.
  • "Conrad Gessner" in Europe 1450-1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World, Ed. Jonathan Dewald, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 2004.
Links for Conrad Gessner... well I recommend his BIO at wikipedia, link here. Funny thing, there's a Conrad-Gessner dot com domain registered (¿?) (link) but there's not too much info on it.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

De Arte Athletica, 16th Century

This amazing compilation of martial arts was commissioned by Paulus Hector Mair (1517–1579) during four complete years in Augsburg of hard work that involved a painter -Jörg Breu the Younger- and two experienced fencers, whom he charged with perfecting the techniques before they were painted. As per Paulus comments “the costs consumed most of his family's income and property”.
My surprise arrived when I could find on his BIO that not only did Paulus Hector Mair spend huge sums on his collections and on his projects: He also had a very expensive lifestyle, frequently hosting receptions for the more important burghers of Augsburg. As his own income was not sufficient for this, he misappropriated funds from the city treasury. An internal auditory revealed this fact in 1579, and Paulus was hanged as a thief at the age of 62.
There’re three preserved versions of his compilation.
External references:
  • Hunt, Brian. "Paulus Hector Mair: Peasant Staff and Flail." Masters of Medieval and Renaissance Martial Arts. Ed. Jeffrey Hull. Boulder, CO: Paladin Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1-58160-668-3 (link provided is based on a search done by ISBN on google)
  • Knight, David James, and Hunt, Brian. The Polearms of Paulus Hector Mair. Boulder, CO: Paladin Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1-58160-644-7 (same thing but not first result returned)
For a high resolution, pdf version of this manuscript, contact me (facsimilium AT gmail DOT com).