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Daniel Good Rare Books and Engravings

1558 Octopus, Conrad Gesner, folio, woodcut, hand coloured, First State, marine life

1558 Octopus, Conrad Gesner, folio, woodcut, hand coloured, First State, marine life

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First State of the rare woodcut.

Unidentified woodcut artist for Konrad Gesner (aka Conrad Gesner; Philiatrus Euonymus) (1516–1565)

Fine folio woodcut leaf.

38 x 21.7 cm

Issued in: Historiae animalium libri IIII qui est de piscium & aquatilium animantium natura, Zurich, Christopher Froschover, 1558.

References: Westwood & Satchell, p.105; Adams C598; Nissen ZBI 1553

FIRST EDITION. Due to a relative paucity of literature on fish from the classical era, Gesner based his work on contemporary research and first-hand observation. As a result, although the species are described in alphabetical order, the descriptions place much emphasis on the physical appearance of species and provide references to wider groups of morphologically similar fish. Similarly, the work is the first scholarly publication in which illustrations play a fundamental role.

Gesner’s use of woodcuts is seen as an important contribution to the scientific study of animals, exposing readers to images of species that may only have been previously studied by descriptive text. Indeed, the popularity of the illustrations at the time of publication is made clear by the fact that they were soon brought together in a separate work of their own, the Icones animalium and Icones avium omnivm (Sp Coll Hunterian A.a.1.2), published between 1553 – 1560.

First state of the woodcut with rich inking and a very strong impression.

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