Frog, from August Rösel von Rosenhof, Historia naturalis Ranarum nostratium, 1758.
Frontispiece to August Rösel von Rosenhof, Historia naturalis Ranarum nostratium, 1758.

13. Rösel von Rosenhof,
August Johann
Historia naturalis Ranarum nostratium. Nuremberg: Typis Johannis Josephi Fleischmanni, 1758.

In the 1735 edition of his System of Nature, Linnaeus included one toad and three species of frogs: the tree frog, the aquatic frog, and the American bullfrog.   Like many of Linnaeus’ groupings, this one was ripe for expansion.  Rösel von Rosenhoff was a miniature painter who was introduced to natural history illustration while recuperating from an illness.   Rösel immediately turned his attention to drawing butterflies and caterpillars. After publishing a book on insects, he then moved on to amphibians, and in 1758 there appeared the most sumptuous book ever published on amphibians, the Natural History of Frogs. It has twenty-four large plates, in pairs; one of each pair shows objects in outline, the other presents them in gorgeous color.  Many of the plates are anatomical, with frogs and toads in various stages of dissection.  Others show tadpoles and larval development.  But several depict frogs in their natural habitats, such as the one reproduced here.  The most attractive plate is the frontispiece, with a variety of amphibians on display, where Rösel’s skill as a miniature painter is most evident.

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