Conrad Gessner's Historia Animalium

One of the most expensive works on natural history in Ximenez's library is the Latin Historia animalium by Conrad Gessner (1516-65). Ximenez seems to have owned three out of the four major volumes: volumes I (1551) and II (1554), respectively on four-footed live-bearing and egg-laying animals, and volume IV (1558) on fish and other aquatic animals; volume III (1555) on birds is not listed in the inventory. All of the volumes were published in Basel by Froschauer. Gessner was a physician, humanist, philologist, bibliographer and naturalist. His Historia animalium is a vast encyclopedia on animals, which for the first time in post-classical history brought together all available information about the animal world, including some animals from America and Asia. The four volumes together count more than 3000 pages and are richly illustrated with some 1400 woodcuts of generally excellent quality. The Historia animalium was a huge success; it was quickly translated into many vernacular languages and published in various abbreviated editions. It is the most important early-modern publication on animals, and the influence of its text and illustrations can be traced in both scientific works and the visual arts until the nineteenth century.

Florike Egmond, Leiden University


Enenkel, Karl, and Paul Smith, eds. Early Modern Zoology: The Construction of Animals in Science, Literature and the Visual Arts. 2 vols. Leiden: Brill, 2007.

Kusukawa, Sachiko. "The Sources of Gessner's Pictures for the Historia animalium." Annals of Science 67 (2010): 303-328.

Egmond, Florike. "A Collection within a Collection: Rediscovered Animal Drawings from the Collections of Conrad Gessner and Felix Platter." Journal of the History of Collections 25.1 (2013): 1-22.