Picturing the book of nature: image, text, and argument in the sixteenth century human anatomy and medical botany.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.
Octavo, dustwrapper, 331 pp. colour illustrations.
Here Kusukawa explores Leonhart Fuchs' "De historia stirpium" and Andreas Vesalius' "De humani corporis fabrica", two landmark publications in the history of the printed book. Due to their spectacular, naturalistic pictures of plants and the human body, these texts, as well as Conrad Gessner's unpublished "Historia plantarum", provided a visual argument for the scientific study of nature. Kusukawa begins with a survey of the technical, financial, artistic, and political conditions that governed the production of printed books during the Renaissance. It was during the first half of the sixteenth century that learned authors began using images in their research and writing, but because the technology was so new, there was a great deal of variety of thought - and often disagreement - about exactly what images could do. Kusukawa investigates the works of Fuchs, Gessner, and Vesalius in light of these debates, scrutinizing the scientists' treatment of illustrations and tracing their motivation for including them in their works. What results is a fascinating and original study of the visual dimension of scientific knowledge in the sixteenth century.