Porcupine, from Konrad Gesner, Historia Animalium, 1551.
Fox, from Konrad Gesner, Historia Animalium, 1551.

3. Gesner, Konrad (1516-1565).
Historia Animalium lib I.
apud Christ. Froschoverum, 1551.

Gesner was really a scholar, not a naturalist, and the text of his History of Animals is drawn from a host of classical authorities, such as Aristotle, Pliny, and Oppian.  But Gesner saw the value of illustrations that were drawn from nature, and he actively sought out the best images he could find for publication.  His lion looks the part of the “king of quadrupeds,” as Gesner calls it (see introduction to this section), and the porcupine and the fox reproduced here are both realistic and attractive.

For all his concern with accuracy of images, Gesner had little interest in classification, or taxonomy.  He did put all the quadrupeds in one volume, which is an important taxonomic first step, but within the volume, the animals are simply arranged alphabetically, so that the ass, horse, and zebra lie nowhere near one another.

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