Amazing Rare Things: The Art of Natural History in the Age of Discovery

Overview

Amazing Rare Things is enthralling, with elegant natural history drawings from the British Royal Collection married to beautiful prose.
The Royal Collection, held at Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, and Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, has been shaped by the personal tastes of kings and queens for more than five hundred years. The Collection’s exquisite natural history artworks in Amazing Rare Things is supplemented by an introduction and commentary from Sir David Attenborough. This ...

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Overview

Amazing Rare Things is enthralling, with elegant natural history drawings from the British Royal Collection married to beautiful prose.
The Royal Collection, held at Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, and Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, has been shaped by the personal tastes of kings and queens for more than five hundred years. The Collection’s exquisite natural history artworks in Amazing Rare Things is supplemented by an introduction and commentary from Sir David Attenborough. This exploration of the natural world from the late fifteenth century to the early eighteenth century represents a period when European knowledge of the world was transformed by voyages of discovery to the farthest reaches of Africa, Asia, America, and beyond. Included are works by Leonardo da Vinci and other foremost artists and collectors of their time who embraced the natural riches of their ever-expanding world and whose legacies help us better understand today our continuing relationship with the natural world.

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Editorial Reviews

Margaret Lowman

"Scientists often wonder who first illustrated biodiversity, and I imagine that artists often wonder about the chronology and development of accurate depictions of natural history. Amazing Rare Things is a welcome and long overdue integration of art and science.”—Margaret D. Lowman, author of It’s a Jungle Up There and Life in the Treetops

Susan P. Williams
Amazing Rare Things is a book to savor in your favorite chair…The sumptuous drawings and watercolors reproduced in this volume bear witness to the endeavors of Merian, Leonardo da Vinci and other artists who recorded the plants, animals and insects they observed with intensity. The accompanying prose bristles with detail…
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Beginning with Leonardo da Vinci, this historical overview of scientific illustrators between the late 1400s and the mid-1700s includes beautiful, intricate specimens from the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British Natural History Museum, among others. Filmmaker Attenborough provides an introductory survey of the artistic representation of plants and animals through human history; succeeding chapters focus on five figures-four artists and one collector-none of whom is well known in either scientific or art history circles. Cassiano dal Pozzo proves an eager and curious antiquarian, a church functionary in Rome who amassed a remarkable collection of illustrations featuring everything from ancient Roman artifacts, minerals and fossils to newly discovered plants and animals. Stunning work by Alexander Marshal, Maria Sibylla Merian and Mark Catesby capture plants and animals in their natural state, including dispatches from the New World and fauna newly arrived from foreign lands. Merian proves most fascinating, working in a time (the late 15th century) when women seldom left their homes, let alone traveled unattended to South America to draw insects and plants in the jungles of Dutch Surinam. A true feast for anyone interested in natural history, this marvelous book makes the underappreciated artworks of a passionate, talented group widely accessible. Color illus. (Aug.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Washington Post
“A book to savor . . . sumptuous . . . transcendent.”
The Barnes & Noble Review
In its elegant, quiet way, this may be the most visually compelling book I've recently come across. Displaying artistic treasures housed in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle, it presents natural history drawings and watercolors by Leonardo da Vinci, Alexander Marshall (1620-82), Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717), and Mark Catesby (1683-1749), as well as illustrations from the encyclopedic "Paper Museum" created by Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588-1657), a remarkable figure in the closing decades of the Italian Renaissance. The 160 color illustrations depict with exquisite artistry an array of exotic plants and animals brought to Europe's attention as a result of 15th- and 16th-century voyages of exploration. Renowned naturalist David Attenborough and expert colleagues contribute a series of engaging essays that illuminate the history of our urge to depict the natural world and the particular perspectives and achievements of the artists mentioned above. --James Mustich
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300125474
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 11/30/2007
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 7.70 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Owens co-curates the world-class drawings of the Royal Collection.

Sir David Attenborough’s career as a pioneer documentary filmmaker and advocate for understanding the natural world spans more than fifty years, including his recent film, Planet Earth.

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