University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Cabinet of Natural History > The hand of the naturalist: Charles Plumier, images and overseas natural history in late-17th-century France

The hand of the naturalist: Charles Plumier, images and overseas natural history in late-17th-century France

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At his death in 1704, Father Charles Plumier – Minim friar, accomplished draftsman, and Royal Botanist to King Louis XIV of France – left more than forty volumes of drawings and descriptions of the American plants and animals that he had observed during his three journeys to the West Indies. Only a little part of this work was printed, mainly by the Royal Press and under the form of lavishly illustrated folios serving the self-celebratory purposes of the monarchy. This paper aims at exploring how images of nature were translated from manuscript to printed media, interrogating the extent to which the printed milieu imposed certain formal characteristics on them. The involvement of Plumier in most of the stages of his images’ printing can be traced even in the ways in which visual information was placed on the page. Rather than being an example of a pervasive concern for credit in the history of science, such a presence of the author in the printing of his images reveals his struggles and negotiations to succeed in what is still among the main goals of the scholar today: getting his work printed.

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

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