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Extra-illustrating natural history in early modern England

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Silvia M. Marchiori.

A hand-coloured image of Iris flower, clipped out of a copy of Rembert Dodoens’ A Nievve Herball, and pasted into a cheap, unillustrated herbal that endorsed the infamous doctrine of signatures – William Coles’ Adam in Eden (1656) – under the entry of Iris. In a copy of Adam in Eden, currently held at the Sherardian Library of Plant Taxonomy, Oxford, clip-pasted illustrations like this filled the volume, along with many plant illustrations directly drawn onto the page. Evidence has shown that these fascinating illustrations and extra-illustrations were probably made by German botanist Johann Jacob Dillenius (1684–1747), the first Sherardian professor of botany at Oxford and a botanical illustrator. Extensive extra-illustrations of plants were also found in several botanical books owned by C17 –18 Oxford botanists, including John Goodyer, William How, and William Sherard.

This paper argues that extra-illustration has been a crucial paper technique for early modern English botanists. Extra-illustration or grangerising, commonly defined as ‘the practice of augmenting a copy of a book with prints, manuscripts or other illustrative material’ that flourished in late C18 –C19, has been a curious subject of book history. Historians often interpret extra-illustration as an antiquarian ‘gentle pastime’; however, the Oxford botanists’ practices show us that extra-illustration was a professional, scholarly activity crucial for identifying species, developing taxonomies, and facilitating publications. By focusing on extra-illustrations, this paper emphasises materiality and active engagement in early modern botanical reading, and challenges our usual idea of what a ‘book’ is.

This talk is part of the Cabinet of Natural History series.

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