Because of their spectacular, naturalistic pictures of plants and the human
body, Leonhart Fuchs' "De historia stirpium" and Andreas Vesalius'
"De humani corporis fabrica" are landmark publications in the history
of the printed book. But as "Picturing the Book of Nature" makes clear,
they do more than bear witness to the development of book publishing during
the Renaissance and to the prominence attained by the fields of medical botany
and anatomy in European medicine. Sachiko Kusukawa examines these texts, as
well as Conrad Gessner's unpublished "Historia plantarum", and demonstrates
how their illustrations were integral to the emergence of a new type of argument
during this period - a visual argument for the scientific study of nature. Kusukawa
begins with a survey of the technical, financial, artistic, and political conditions
that governed the production of printed books during the Renaissance. It was
during the first half of the sixteenth century that learned authors began using
images in their research and writing, but because the technology was so new,
there was a great deal of variety of thought - and often disagreement - about
exactly what images could do.
Kusukawa investigates the works of Fuchs, Gessner, and Vesalius in light of these debates, scrutinizing the scientists' treatment of illustrations and tracing their motivation for including them in their works. What results is a fascinating and original study of the visual dimension of scientific knowledge in the sixteenth century.