Unseen Beasts, Then and Now

By Carl Zimmer | March 22, 2010 8:53 pm

square medley600In tomorrow’s New York Times I have an essay about the art of seeing Nature’s unseen–from the bestiaries of the Middle Ages to today’s images of feathered dinosaurs and upright apes. Check it out, and also check out the accompanying slide show about Conrad Gessner, a Renaissance naturalist who assembled the greatest zoological encyclopedia of his day–which included unicorns.

Comments (6)

Links to this Post

  1. [citation needed]» Blog Archive » elsewhere on the net | March 31, 2010
  1. Nice article, and thanks for the shout-out on the web slide show! –Brian

  2. I handled some of Gessner’s original diagrams when in Erlangen last year. He did a lot of drawings for an uncompleted Historia Plantarum. I think that with any one of those drawings in hand I could have identified the plant in the field. The man was a glorious observer.

  3. HP

    For a second-hand copy of a drawing from written descriptions, that rhinoceros really isn’t bad.

  4. Ginger Yellow

    For a second-hand copy of a drawing from written descriptions, that rhinoceros really isn’t bad.

    Indeed. The beaver isn’t too bad either. What’s most striking isn’t so much the inaccuracy of the unfamiliar animals (which is both surprisingly small and forgivable), but the inaccuracy of some of the familiar forms. And of course the credulousness with regard to the fantastical animals. Unicorns are one thing – there was a thriving in trade in narwhal horns claimed to be from unicorns. But monkfish with human heads taken straight from protestant propaganda? Was he not the least bit suspicious?

  5. As ever, super article written by Carl on NYTS. The latest article here is making me think… see!

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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.

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