Carmen Niekrasz, Claudia Swan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

9 Scopus citations


During the epistemic shift conventionally called the Scientific Revolution, the study of nature came to depend on images. Investigation of the plant world, which was still tied to medical aims but was beginning to take shape as the morphological discipline we now call botany, is a case in point. The implementation of new printing techniques in the late fifteenth century enabled the production of publications that featured images that were precisely reproducible, at least in theory, and therefore understood as trustworthy. Gradually, standard classical texts such as herbals, which had previously circulated as hand-copied manuscripts, were made available in printed form and came to be heavily illustrated (Figure 31.1). The accessibility of standard visual references in relatively affordable printed editions permitted enterprising doctors, pharmacists, and amateurs of the plant world to compare the plants they had at hand and that grew in their native lands with the plants described by classical authorities, among them the Greek naturalists Theophrastus (third century B.C.E.), Dioscorides (first century C.E.), and the Roman encyclopedist Pliny the Elder (d. 79 C.E.). Numerous varieties not contained in the classical texts were “discovered” by learned botanists throughout Europe. Like prints, drawings also served as a basis for comparison of local varieties with the plants the classical authors had described and, in those cases where the plants at hand could not be matched with plants previously described, came to serve as means for recording and cataloguing them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge History of Science
Subtitle of host publicationEarly Modern Science
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781139054010
ISBN (Print)0521572444, 9780521572446
StatePublished - Jan 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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