A PIONEERING WORK ON HOOVED ANIMALS
Quadrupedum omnium bisulcornum historia.
Bologna, Gian Battista Ferroni for Marco Antonio Bernia, 1641.
Folio, pp. (8), 1040, (12). Roman and Italic letter, little Greek; engraved architectural and allegorical title by Gian Battista Coriolano, with rampant lions, nude figures and putti, large historiated and decorated initials, some decorative head- and tail-pieces, numerous detailed woodcut illustrations of animals, large printer’s device on final verso; a bit yellowed, mainly marginal light foxing, old repair to lower outer corner of 851. A good copy in contemporary vellum, yapped edges; early shelf mark on small oval label at head of rear cover; library stamp of Universitetets Zoologiske Museums of Copenhagen and eighteenth-century autograph ‘F. Bollin[?]’ on front endpaper; early duplicate stamp on title.
Second and slightly corrected edition of a ground-breaking investigation into hoofed (ungulate) quadrupeds, first published in 1621. Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522-1605) is regarded as the father of modern natural history due to his pivotal contribution to zoology, botany and geology. An erudite scholar of wide-ranging interests, he was the first professor of natural science at Bologna University. There, he established a renowned botanical garden and gathered a steady amount of specimens and detailed drawings of faunal and floral rarities in his private museum. Everything was later bequeathed to the City Senate. The majority of his extensive essays was published posthumously by his pupils with the support of the Bolognese Commune.
This vast zoological survey is not confined to scientific information on ungulates, but, in the encyclopaedic style of the author, touches also on their occurrences in European, Egyptian and Arabic literature and figurative art, as well as their meaning in prophecies and mystic symbolism and use in medical preparation. Descriptions of deformed exemplars and mythological creatures, like unicorns and centaurs, are included too. A fine copy of Dürer’s Rhinoceros (p. 884) and one of the earliest depictions of a giraffe (p. 931) stand out amongst the many zoological illustrations. Together with De quadrupedibus solidipedibus, De quadrupedibus digitatis viviparis and De quadrupedibus digitatis oviparis, this work represents one of the earliest and broadest scientific insights into quadrupeds’ features. The Scottish scholar Thomas Dampster (1579-1625) was involved in its publication as professor of humanities at the University of Bologna.
Not in BM STC 17th It. Nissen ZBI, 76; Bibliotheca Osleriana, 1770; Alden, 642/3; Graesse, I, 65.