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The European world view changed dramatically following the voyages of early explorers. News of the “new worlds” challenged current cosmographic beliefs as well as the information in geographical works by Claudius Ptolemy and other ancient Classical Greek astronomers and geographers. Maps played a major role in the information transfer, providing unmatched representations of newly discovered geographic realities. Johann Gutenberg’s mechanical printing press and the development of woodcut and engraving techniques ensured the preservation and wide distribution of this new information.

Mapping the World

The European world view changed dramatically following the voyages of early explorers. News of the “new worlds” challenged current cosmographic beliefs as well as the information in geographical works by Claudius Ptolemy and other ancient Classical Greek astronomers and geographers. Maps played a major role in the information transfer, providing unmatched representations of newly discovered geographic realities. Johann Gutenberg’s mechanical printing press and the development of woodcut and engraving techniques ensured the preservation and wide distribution of this new information.

Maya Portrayal of the Cosmos

The Maya portrayed the cosmos and the otherworld in myriad ways. Serpents and alligators became the tangible entities inhabiting the otherworld and encircling the earth or the heavens. A sky-serpent spirals his way around this elegantly thin-walled bowl. Here the universe is portrayed as an ever-changing conflict between light and dark, day and night, and this world and the other world. The bowl’s carved areas include abstract renditions of reptilian creatures combined with celestial signs. These flow into the great cosmic serpent that is the Milky Way.

Carved bowl with swirl patterns. Guatemalan Lowlands. AD 200–500. Burnished black-brown ceramic. Bottom. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (136.00.00). Photo ©Justin Kerr, Kerr Associates

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T–O Map of the World

This early European world map is called a “T–O Map” because of its symbolic design. Originally drawn in the seventh century as an illustration for an encyclopedia of world knowledge by Isidore of Seville, the design had great religious significance. The “T” represented a Christian cross that placed Jerusalem at the center of the world. It also separated the known continents—Asia, Europe, and Africa. The “O” enclosing the entire image represented the medieval idea of the world surrounded by water.

Isidore, Bishop of Seville. Etymologiae (Etymologies). Augsburg: Guntherus Ziner, 1472. Vollbehr Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division (138.00.00)

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Paolo Forlani’s 1560 World Map

Paolo Forlani’s 1560 world map appeared fourteen years after the first appearance of Italian cartographer Giacomo Gastaldi’s prototype world map. The Forlani version was published by Venetian Giovanni Camocio. The map includes the first naming of Canada and Saguenai; the North American land mass is still shown joined to Asia. The map includes two multi-pointed compasses, numerous sea monsters, Venetian galleys, and other ships in the sea.

Paolo Forlani (fl. mid-sixteenth century). Untitled world map in Antoine Lafrery’s (1512–1577) Geografia tavole moderne di geographia (Modern geography of the greater part of the world). Rome: Antoine Lafrery, 1575? Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (149.01.00)

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Picturing the Universe

Before the revolutionary, heliocentric or sun-centered ideas of Nicolaus Copernicus, the traditional geocentric or earth-centered universe was usually depicted by concentric circles. In this popular German work on natural history, medicine, and science, Konrad von Megenberg depicted the universe in an unusual but effective manner. The seven known planets are contained within straight horizontal bands that separate the Earth below from Heaven, populated by the saints, above.

Bartholomaeus Anglicus. Le proprietaire des choses (The Properties of Things). Lyon: Johannes Siber, 1486. Rosenwald Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (139.01.01)

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1482 Ulm Ptolemy

The 1482 Ulm edition of the Geographia of Claudius Ptolemy was one of the most important cartographic texts of the early Renaissance and the first edition of the work to be printed outside Italy. The Ulm edition of the Geographia is much different than the Italian editions in the look of its maps, which were printed from carved wood blocks rather than copperplate engravings. Four new regional maps that show geographical knowledge gathered after the time of Ptolemy were also added to this edition.

Claudius Ptolemy. Geographia. Ulm: Lienhart Holle, 1482. Hain Collection, Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (140.02.00)

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Cosmographiae Introductio

The Cosmographiae introductio, written by Martin Waldseemüller and Matthias Ringmann and printed in St. Dié, France, in 1507, was meant to be a guidebook to Waldseemüller’s 1507 world map, the Universalis cosmographiae. The text describes the necessary geographic and cartographic information that a viewer would need in order to understand Waldseemüller’s representation of the world. In it, Waldseemüller and Ringmann also describe their reasons for naming the New World “America” after Amerigo Vespucci.

Martin Waldseemüller and Mathias Ringmann. Cosmographiae Introductio. St.-Dié: 1507. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (141.00.00, 141.00.01, 141.01.00)

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1507 World Map

The “Universalior cogntit orbis tabula,” a world map by the astronomer and cartographer Johannes Ruysch, was included in the 1507 Rome edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia. The map documents the voyages of Christopher Columbus and John Cabot and includes information from Portuguese sources as well as information taken from Marco Polo’s account of his travels.

Claudius Ptolemy. In hoc opere haec continentur Geographiae Cl. Ptolemaei a plurimis uiris utriusq[ue] linguae doctiss (Continuations of the Geographiae of Cl. Ptolemaeus by many learned men in their own languages). Rome: Bernardinum Venetum de Vitalibus, 1507. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (145.02.00)

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1512 Stobnicy Map

This map from Jan ze Stobnicy’s Introduction to the cosmography of Ptolemy is one of the few contemporary sources to copy information directly from Waldseemüller’s 1507 Universalis cosmographiae. Examination of this map reveals that it was copied from the hemispherical insets that adorn the top of Waldseemüller’s 1507 world map.

Jan ze Stobnicy. Introductio in Ptolomei comosgraphia[m] cu[m] longitudinibus et latitudinibus et cuvitatum celebrioriu (Introduction to the cosmography of Ptolemy. . . .). Krakow: Florian Ungleri, 1512. Facsimile. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (146.01.00)

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Enhanced View of the World

The “Delineation of the entire world prepared according to the teaching of Ptolemy the Cosmographer and the voyages of Americus Vespuccius,” was assembled by the astronomer Peter Bienewitz, known as “Petrus Apianus,” and printed in Vienna in 1520. Though he based his work on Ptolemaic tradition, Apianus enhanced his view of the world using information garnered on the voyages of Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci. He also gathered information from the best available maps of the period, including Waldseemüller’s 1507 world map and probably the globes of Johann Schöner.

Julius C. Solinus. CIoannis Camertis Minoritani, artium, et sacrae theologiae doctoris, in C. Iulii Solini Polyistor ra enarrationes. Vienna: Johann Singrenium, 1520. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (147.00.00)

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The Sixteenth-Century World

This early anthology of the lands and peoples of the Americas includes letters and descriptions of the voyages of Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, and Amerigo Vespucci. A truly remarkable feature of the work is a world map, possibly drawn by Sebastian Münster, and, in part, by Hans Holbein the Younger. The Americas are clearly depicted, based partly on the world as configured by the Johann Schöner globes or on Petrus Apianus’s map of 1520 and showing the influence of the ideas of Copernicus. The scenes and vignettes that surround the oval projection are particularly interesting images, reflecting European views of this new world as a place where cannibals, monsters, and other dangers lurked.

Nouus orbis regionum ac insularum. . . . (News of the regions and islands of the world. . . .). Basel: Johannes Heruagium, 1532. Johann Huttich, comp., with preface by Simon Grynäus. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (148.02.00)

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On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres

In this book, printed in 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus first presented a full heliocentric theory, a solar system in which the earth orbited the sun. Some of the calculations in the book were made by Bernhard Walther (1430–1504) and sent to Copernicus by Johann Schöner. In this landmark publication, Copernicus also discusses the “discovery” of the New World and quotes from the Cosmographiae introductio of Waldseemüller and Ringmann.

Nicolaus Copernicus. De Revolutionibus orbium caelestium (On the revolutions of the heavenly spheres). Nuremberg: Johannes Petrus, 1543. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (149.00.00, 149.00.01, 149.00.02)

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Antoine Floriano’s World Map in Globe Gores

Antonio Floriano was granted a privilege by the Venetian Senate to prepare and publish a world map in January 1555. The map appears in two hemispheres each cut into thirty-six gores, and it is copied evidently from Gerard Mercator’s 1538 double cordiform (heart-shaped) map. The name “America” appears in both the northern and southern portions of the Western Hemisphere and America is shown as separate from the Asian continent.

Antonio Floriano (fl. mid-sixteenth century). Untitled globe gores in Antoine Lafrery (1512–1577), Geografia tavole moderne di geographia. Rome: Antoine Lafrery, 1575? Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (148.03.00)

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Earth-Centered Universe

Among several medieval astronomers whose work remained to some degree influential in the late fifteenth century was Englishman John of Hollywood, usually called by his Latin name, Johannes de Sacrobosco. His treatise entitled The Sphere of the World taught generations of young students the spherical conception of the planet Earth. That universe was shown as Earth-centered.

Johannes de Sacro Bosco (ca. 1195–1256). Sphaera mundi (The sphere of the world). Venice: 1490. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (140.03.00)

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Italian Adventurer Ludovico de Varthema

Ludivico de Varthema was an Italian adventurer who traveled to the east of the Mediterranean Sea extensively and chronicled his journeys. The first European to visit many parts of Asia and the Middle East, he traveled overland, learned Arabic, pretended to convert to Islam, and penetrated the local culture of the places he visited. In the volume shown here, first published in 1510, he detailed his travels through Egypt, Syria, Arabia Deserta and Arabia Felix, Persia, India, and Ethiopia between 1503 and 1508. He wrote, “the testimony of one eye-witness is worth more than ten hear-says.”

Ludovico de Varthema (ca. 1470–1517). Itinerario de Ludouico de Varthema . . . (Travels of Ludovico de Varthema). Venice: Zorzi di Rusconi, 1517. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (146.02.00)

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Korean World Map

This popular wheel map, the Ch’onhado (map of all under heaven), was produced in Korea in the nineteenth century. The map comes out of the Buddhist tradition of China with data possibly 2000 years old, although the earliest-known surviving examples date from the sixteenth century. From that time, the style gained popularity in Korea, and by the end of the nineteenth century numerous copies existed. The structure of the map is simple. A main continent, containing China, Korea, and a number of historically known countries, occupies the center of the circular map, surrounded by an enclosing sea ring, which is itself surrounded by an outer land ring

Ch’onhado (World Map) from Chonha Chido (Map of the World). Hand-copied manuscript map. Korea: mid-eighteenth century, Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (139.02.00)

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Oronce Fine’s Cordiform map of the World, 1531

French map maker Oronce Fine prepared this early woodcut map of the world using a double cordiform (heart-shaped) projection. The body of water beyond the tip of South America is called the “Mare Magellanicum,” one of the first uses of navigator Ferdinand Magellan’s name in such a context. The geography of Central America reflects information acquired during the Spanish conquest of the region beginning in 1520. North America is still shown as connected to Asia, but the form of the east coast reflects information derived from Giovanni da Verrazzano’s Atlantic Coast voyage in the mid-1520s.

Oronce Fine (1494–1555). Nova, et universi orbis description. . . . Paris?: Orontius Fineus, 1531. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (147.03.00)

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Portolan Chart of the Mediterranean Sea

This chart of the Mediterranean and Black Seas, extending from the coast of Palestine to the Balearic Islands and the east coast of Spain, is drawn in the portolan style, without decoration. This style incorporates compass directions creating a consistent array of grids across the entire chart, facilitating navigation. The system of wind rays and compass directions is centered in the Aegean Sea. It is believed that this earliest-known portolan chart of the Western Hemisphere was prepared by a Genoese mapmaker between 1320 and 1350.

Portolan chart of the Mediterranean Sea. Genoa?: ca. 1320–1350. Manuscript chart on vellum. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (138.03.00)

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Ptolemaic World Map

Called the Nuremberg Chronicle by modern day historians, this book is considered one of the most important histories published in the fifteenth century. The most heavily illustrated book from the late fifteenth century, illustrated with more than 1800 woodcuts, the Chronicle tells the story of mankind from the creation of the world to the end of the Middle Ages. The woodcut displayed here depicts the artist’s conception of the world, with Jerusalem at the center.

Hartmann Schedel. Liber Chronicarum. Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 1493. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (141.02.00)

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Venetian Sailing Directions

By the end of the fifteenth century an emerging body of literature to facilitate sea travel, especially in the Mediterranean world, was available in manuscript form. This early book, which contains considerable sailing directions and other important data, such as religious observances, served as an invaluable guide for the sailor and a storehouse of practical information for the layman.

Nicolo Stolfo. Drawings of zodiacs, hands, and divisions of time in Portolano. Venice: 1499. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (145.03.00)

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Cartographic Treasures

Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 map portrays the New World as a separate continent, which until then was unknown to the Europeans. It was the first map, printed or manuscript, to depict clearly a separate Western Hemisphere, with the Pacific as a separate ocean. The map represented a huge leap forward in knowledge, recognizing the newly found American landmass and forever changing the European understanding of a world divided into only three parts—Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Long thought lost, the 1507 Waldseemüller world map was discovered more than a century ago in a castle in southern Germany. The map was owned by the family of Prince Johannes Waldburg-Wolfegg for more than 350 years and had rarely been made available for examination. The map survived in mint condition because its twelve individual sheets were placed in a portfolio by its original owner, Johann Schöner (1477–1547), a Nuremberg astronomer and geographer.

The original portfolio contained other cartographic treasures including the 1516 wall map by Martin Waldseemüller, known as the “Carta Marina,” and terrestrial and celestial globe gores created by Schöner, which are part of the Library’s Jay I. Kislak Collection.  The Carta Marina is thought by some to be the first printed nautical map of the entire world and differs markedly from the 1507 World Map. The name “America” is omitted from the 1516 map, the size of the New World is also greatly reduced, and the Pacific Ocean disappears. Among Schöner’s globe gores included in the portfolio is the first-known set of printed celestial gores that he designed and printed in 1517. These annotated gores represent the state of astronomical knowledge in Schöner’s time and are an improvement over many of the star charts of the period.

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Waldseemüller’s 1507 World Map

The 1507 Universalis cosmographia secunda Ptholemei traditionem et Americi Vespucci aliorum que lustrations by Martin Waldseemüller is the first map to show the continents of the New World separated from Asia, revealing the Pacific Ocean. Often called the “Birth Certificate of America,” it is also the first map on which the name “America” appears. The only surviving copy, displayed here, is a masterpiece of woodblock printing and is modeled after the earlier world maps of second century geographer Claudius Ptolemy. 

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Schöner Sammelband

The Schöner Sammelband is arguably one of the most important compilations of cartographic materials to survive from the early Renaissance. The Sammelband, or compilation, was discovered in 1901 by the Jesuit historian, Father Josef Fischer, in the library of the Castle of Wolfegg, in Württemberg, Germany. The volume had been assembled sometime after 1516 and contained the only surviving copies of Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 Universalis cosmographiae, his 1516 Carta Marina Navigatoria (page shown)and globe patterns by the mathematician, alchemist and globe-maker Johann Schöner (1477–1547).

Compiled by Johann Schöner, comp. (1477–1547). Schöner Sammelband. Nuremburg: ca.1516. J. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (143.00.03)

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Carta Marina

Printed on twelve sheets, the Carta Marina, like the Martin Waldsemüller’s 1507 world map, was part of the volume of cartographic materials, known as the Sammelband, assembled by mathematician, alchemist, and globe-maker Johann Schörner. Sheet number six appears slightly different in color from the other eleven sheets of the map because it is printed on a different type of paper and most probably was a proof sheet. This sheet of the map was not originally bound into the Sammelband like the others and seems to have been added at a later date.

Martin Waldseemüller. Carta Marina Navigatoria Portugallen Navigationes Atque Tocius Cogniti Orsis Terre Marisque. [Strasbourg?]: 1516. Facsimile. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (144.00.00)

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Natural History

Among the most beautiful and richly illustrated items in the Kislak Collection are books detailing the natural history of the New World. These volumes describe and illustrate the diverse flora and fauna of Mesoamerica and include indigenous names for the plants and animals. Books such as Historia naturae (1635) by Juan Eusebio Nieremberg (1595–1658) also provide extensive information on the customs and rites of native cultures.

Flora and Fauna of North and South America

Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, an early seventeenth-century Spanish Jesuit exegist, philosopher, and scholar, was a prolific writer in several fields. Nieremberg based his book of natural history largely on the earlier work of Francisco Hernandez, physician to Philip II, who, in the 1570s was sent by the king to study medicinal plants, animals, and minerals in New Spain. Nieremberg’s book contains about 160 descriptions of plants, animals, and minerals. Note that many of the Nahuatl (Aztec) names for animals and plants are used in this book.

Juan Eusebio Nieremberg (1595–1658). Historiae naturae, maxime peregrinae (Natural history, most especially the foreign). Antwerp: Plantiniana Balthasaris Moreti, 1635. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (157.00.00, 157.00.01, 157.00.02, 157.00.03)

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New World Creatures

The persistence of romantic and dramatic images of New World creatures is evident even as late as 1671, as exemplified by the images in this book. The book is lavishly illustrated with 125 copper engravings including 32 folded views, 70 plates, 16 maps and 7 portraits of famous explorers, each surrounded by baroque framed borders. This elaborate book illustrates the battles, festivals, religious rites (including cannibalism), habitations, and customs of the Indians of America. The meticulously drawn scenes include Dutch New Amsterdam in eastern North America, Caribbean ports and islands, and numerous ports and cities on both the east and west coasts of South America.

Arnoldus Montanus, 1625?-1683. De nieuwe en onbekende weereld (The new and strange world. . . .). Amsterdam: Jacob, 1671. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (159.00.00, 159.00.01, 159.00.02, 159.00.03)

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Eighteenth-Century Naturalist

Mark Catesby was an early eighteenth-century naturalist who visited Virginia, the Carolinas, Florida, and the West Indies. His second voyage in the 1720s was financed, in part, by Sir Hans Sloane, also a naturalist. Catesby sent back copious quantities of biological materials to his friends and supporters in London. His two-volume Natural History contains 220 large-scale, detailed, plates of plants and animals that were drawn, etched, and hand colored by Catesby. 

Mark Catesby (1683–1749). The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. London: W. Innys and R. Manby, 1731-43. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (160.00.00, 160.00.01, 160.00.02, 160.00.03)

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Gould’s Birds of South America

John Gould, regarded by many as the greatest bird artist and publisher in Britain, produced fifteen folio sets during his career. The book on view is dedicated to a tropical bird called the “trogon.” In his preface to the book, Gould wrote: “If not strictly elegant in form, the Trogons in the brilliancy of their plumage are surpassed only by the Trochilidae [toucans]: their splendour amply compensates for every other defect.” The illustrations for this work are some of the most magnificent that the ornithologist produced.

John Gould (1804–1881). A monograph of the Trogonidae, or family of trogons. London: Taylor and Francis, 1875. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (160.01.00, 160.01.01, 160.01.02, 160.01.03)

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Bartram’s Botanical Expedition through Southeast North America

In 1765–1766, William Bartram, a British colonial botanist and ornithologist, accompanied his father on an expedition to the Carolinas, Georgia, and East Florida. In 1773, he made a five-year trip to the same area, collecting plants and seeds and making drawings of insects, birds, plants, and reptiles. This publication covers the results of his work during those trips.

William Bartram (1739–1823). Travels Through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida. . . . Philadelphia: James and Johnson, 1791. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (161.00.00, 161.00.01, 161.00.02, 161.00.03)

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Von Humboldt’s Scientific Excursion to South and Central America

The explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt and the botanist Aimé Bonland, made a scientific excursion to South and Central America from 1799 to 1804 to collect numerous plant specimens and study flora, fauna, and geology. Humboldt’s multi-volume work captured and conveyed the essence of the pre-Columbian world and influenced greatly the European and North American vision of Latin America. In this image, von Humboldt includes figures of native peoples and examples of animals and vegetation to add local color to the dignity of the Chimborazo mountains.

Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859). Vues des Cordillres et Monuments des peuples indigènes de l'Amérique (Views of the Cordilleras and monuments of indigenous peoples of America). Paris: R. Schoell, 1810. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (162.00.00, 162.00.01, 162.00.02, 162.00.03)

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Caribbean Plant Specimens

Nikolaus Jacquin was an important eighteenth-century botanist whose work helped to spread the ideas of Carl von Linn (Linnaeus). Linnaeus had developed a coherent classification system for plants based on the structure of the reproductive organs of flowers. Jacquin was sent by the Emperor of Austria to the Caribbean to collect plant specimens. During a four-year period (1755–1759), he sent back seven shipments of plants and animals to Vienna. The 1780 edition of this work contains 264 sumptuous hand-painted engravings and a title page drawn by Franz and Ferdinand Bauer.

Nikolaus Joseph Jacquin (1727–1817). Selectarum Stirpium Americanarum historia. . . . Vienna: 1780. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (163.00.00, 163.00.01, 163.00.02, 163.00.03)

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The Insects of Suriname

Maria Sibylla Merian, a German artist and naturalist, was born into a prominent Frankfurt family of artists and publishers. From an early age she was interested in the study of insects, especially the silkworm. After moving to the Netherlands, Merian became acquainted with various artists and scientists. From 1699 to 1701, Merian visited the Dutch colony of Suriname in South America. Her drawings were the basis for engravings such as this one, part of a work containing sixty large-scale, delicate, hand-colored engravings of plants and insects.

Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717. Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensiam. . . . Amsterdam: G. Valck, 1705. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (164.00.00, 164.00.02, 164.00.03)

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Medicinal Virtues of Tobacco

Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europeans were obsessed with tobacco as a commodity and, especially, as a panacea. Nicholas Monardes, a physician from Seville, published a popular medical history in 1574 that included a lengthy description extolling the virtues of tobacco. Quickly translated into English in 1577, Joyfull Newes out of the Newfound World claimed that tobacco was an ideal “hearbe” long familiar to American Indians, who taught its virtues to Spanish explorers. Monardes enumerated the properties of the plant: to “heale griefes of the head” to “cureth the headake” and even to relieve weariness and provide sustenance when food and water were lacking.

Nicholas Monarde, ca. 1512–1588. Joyfull nevves of of the newe founde worlde. . . . London: W. Norton, 1577. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (165.00.00, 165.02.00, 165.02.01)

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Tlatilco Vessel in Form of a Rabbit

One of the earliest advanced cultures, the Tlatilco flourished in the Valley of Mexico. The culture is characterized in part by the creation of pottery in the form of humans and indigenous animals, by elaborate burials, and stylized Olmec-inspired design. The rabbit-shaped vessel on display not only pictures an indigenous animal but also reveals information on the customs and rites of native cultures. Similar vessels have been found in quantity at burial sites.

Effigy vessel in the form of a rabbit. Central Mexico. Tlatilco, 1150–550 BC. Ceramic with a cream-colored slip highlighted with black resist design. Jay I Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (166.00.00)

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Medicinal Virtues of New World Plants

Nicholas Monardes, a physician from Seville, imported plants from the New World, studied their medicinal qualities, and published information about the newly discovered plants. He is best known for a popular medical history that included a lengthy description extolling the virtues of tobacco. Quickly translated into English in 1577, Joyfull Newes Out of the Newe Found World claimed that tobacco was an ideal “hearbe” long familiar to American Indians, who taught its virtues to Spanish explorers. In addition to tobacco, Monardes included in his publication some of the first illustrations and descriptions of sassafras, barley, sunflower, passion flower, and balsam.

Nicholas Monarde (ca. 1512–1588). Joyfull Newes Out of the Newe Founde World. . . . London: W. Norton, 1577. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (165.02.01)

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