March 4 Event: “Early Natural History Texts: The Roots of American Environmentalism”

Audubon Birds of America_plate28

Snowy Owls from John James Audubon’s Birds of America, 1840 (call number QL674, Volume 1, plate 28)

We are pleased to announce that next week we will be holding a special event showcasing a number of our natural history texts.  This is one of several Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities events being held this year.  Matthew Sivils, associate professor of English and the 2015 CEAH Fellow in the Arts and Humanities, will provide a brief overview of the texts which will be displayed, which includes works by influential eighteenth- and nineteenth-century naturalists such as Mark Catesby and John James Audubon.

You can find details on this event and others on the Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities website:

The seeds of America’s environmental identity were first planted by a handful of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century naturalist-explorers. These naturalists—who were as much artists and poets as scientists—made it their mission to discover, record, and share North America’s natural diversity. These volumes, published by figures such as Mark Catesby, Alexander Wilson, and John James Audubon, contain powerful descriptions and stunning illustrations of the plants and animals that would come to define the land. Professor Sivils will provide a brief overview of some of the most influential of these texts, followed by a viewing of rare natural history volumes housed in the ISU Library’s Department of Special Collections.

Professor Sivils will give his talk in the 405 classroom adjacent to the Special Collections Department.  Following his presentation, there will be an opportunity to view a selection of our natural history texts in the Special Collections Reading Room.

“Early Natural History Texts: The Roots of American Environmentalism”
March 4, 7:00–8:00 p.m., Special Collections Department, Parks Library

Below is a sampling of what you will see if you’re able to attend the event next Wednesday:

The Aurelian. A natural history of English moths and butterflies, together with the plants on which they feed. Also a faithful account of their respective changes, their usual haunts when in the winged state, and their standard names as established by the Society of Aurelians. / Drawn engraved and coloured from the natural subjects. By Moses Harris. 1766. (QL542.4 H242a)

The Aurelian, 1766 (call number QL542.4 H242a)

The full title of the book pictured above is:  The Aurelian: A natural history of English moths and butterflies, together with the plants on which they feed. Also a faithful account of their respective changes, their usual haunts when in the winged state, and their standard names as established by the Society of Aurelians. / Drawn engraved and coloured from the natural subjects. By Moses Harris, 1766.  (Wondering what “aurelian” means?  It’s an older world for lepidopterist.  A lepidopterist studies or collects butterflies and moths.)

historia stirpium-pg52

De historia stirpium commentarii insignes… by Leonard Fuchs, 1542 (call number QK41 .F951d)

The “De Historia Stirpium, or Notable commentaries on the history of plants, contains 497 descriptions in Latin of plants, with woodcuts based on first-hand observation.  Early herbals often contained depictions of plants which were not based on actual specimens, but on depictions from other books.  As a result, these illustrations were often inaccurate.  The De Historia Stirpium was the first herbal to illustrate native plants from the Americas.  More on Leonhart Fuchs’ herbals can be found in our online exhibit.

We are looking forward to next week’s event (March 4, 7-8pm), and hope we will see you there!

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