The essays and original visualizations collected in Natural Things in Early Modern Worlds explore the relationships among natural things - ranging from pollen in a gust of wind to a carnivorous pitcher plant to a shell-like skinned armadillo - and the humans enthralled with them.

Episodes from 1500 to the early 1900s reveal connected histories across early modern worlds as natural things traveled across the Indian Ocean, the Ottoman Empire, Pacific islands, Southeast Asia, the Spanish Empire, and Western Europe. In distant worlds that were constantly changing with expanding networks of trade, colonial aspirations, and the rise of empiricism, natural things obtained new meanings and became alienated from their origins. Tracing the processes of their displacement, each chapter starts with a piece of original artwork that relies on digital collage to pull image sources out of place and to represent meanings that natural things lost and remade.

Accessible and elegant, Natural Things is the first study of its kind to combine original visualizations with the history of science. Museum-goers, scholars, scientists, and students will find new histories of nature and collecting within. Its playful visuality will capture the imagination of non-academic and academic readers alike while reminding us of the alienating capacity of the modern life sciences.

chapter |6 pages

On the Design

part I|115 pages


chapter 1|29 pages


The Sexual Life of Plants in Mesoamerica

chapter 2|33 pages


Medicine in the Belly of the Beast

chapter 3|23 pages


Cross-Cultural Encounters and the Control of Water

chapter 4|26 pages


From Sea to Scent in Renaissance Italy

part II|125 pages


chapter 5|43 pages


Natural History as Food History, c. 1730–1860

chapter 6|24 pages


Of Melancholic Turkish Bodies and Sensory Experiences

chapter 7|24 pages


Power, Pain, and Knowledge in the Lesser Antilles

chapter 8|32 pages

Pitcher Plant

Drowning in her Sweet Nectar

part III|102 pages


chapter 9|27 pages


The Twofold Materiality of Early Modern Herbals

chapter 10|24 pages


An Animal in Search of a Place

chapter 11|25 pages


Living Names of Félix de Azara's Lost Collection

chapter 12|23 pages


Objecthood, Subjecthood, and the Genius of Gauss

chapter |21 pages


Nature's Narratives

chapter |4 pages


The Disorder of Things: A Virus Dispatch