chapter  4
32 Pages

Erudition on Display: The “Scientific” Illustrations in Pico della Mirandola’s Manuscript of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History

BySarah Blake McHam

For medieval and Renaissance readers, the Natural History, the immense encyclopedia compiled by Pliny the Elder in the first century AD, was an invaluable source of information about the universe, the earth, man, plants, animals, minerals, medicine, and art.1 Fourteen centuries after Pliny’s death, a rich

* I would like to thank several organizations for their generous support of my research on the influence of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History on Italian Renaissance art. The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation underwrote my research in Venice at the Biblioteca Marciana, the American Philosophical Society my research in Paris at the Bibliothèque nationale, and in London at the British Library and Victoria and Albert Museum. The Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, provided me with a residential fellowship. Glyn Davis of the Victoria and Albert Museum kindly provided a photograph of the Piccolomini manuscript. I am also very grateful to Lilian Armstrong for reading this essay and for her expert counsel on all my questions about manuscript and incunable illumination. Her generosity extended even to loans and gifts of books and photographs. Finally, I would like to acknowledge the perceptive comments and editing suggestions made by the editors, especially Karen Reeds.