Ulisse Aldrovandi, Serpentum

Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522–1605?).
Serpentum, et draconu[m] historiae libri duo.
Bologna: Clemente Ferroni for the publisher Marco Antonio Bernia, 1640. (BRC0010)

Aldrovandi studied in Bologna, Padua, Rome, and Pisa where his interests included antiquities and botany. In 1553 he was appointed to the chairs of philosophy and logic as well as a lectureship in botany at Bologna. In addition he practiced medicine, studied law, established a botanical garden, and gathered items for an early museum. Author of several works on medicine and natural philosophy, he is most well known for his thirteen-volume illustrated work on natural history.

Only four of the thirteen volumes were published in his lifetime, while the remaining volumes, compiled and edited by his students and colleagues, were published between 1606 and 1668. The range of subjects in the work comprise ornithology, insects, mollusks and crustaceans, fishes, quadrupeds, serpents and dragons, monsters including abnormal living creatures as well fabulous creations, minerals and mining, and dendrology. The accounts vary considerably in terms of the amount of information for each subject. In general, the following topics are included for each entry: distribution, various names for the organism, dietary or medicinal uses, sexual habits and differentiation, and cultural references such as appearances on coins, emblems, or in hieroglyphics or mention in verse or prose. The Sellers collection includes five of the thirteen works in this renowned set: the three ornithological volumes, the single volume on fish, and the sole volume on serpents and dragons.

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Natural History
Ulisse Aldrovandi, Serpentum