Illustrated Scientific Books in Early Modern Europe

Current faculty: Daniela Bleichmar


This course examines the role of images in the production and circulation of scientific knowledge in early modern European books, from the rise of printing to about 1800. It is a highly empirical seminar, based above all on our looking together and discussing a large number of books from the period. We will compare examples of books across graphic-rich genres such as natural history, anatomy, cartography, technology, and astronomy. Through specific examples, we will discuss topics including the role of images in the production and circulation of knowledge; relationships between authors, artists, and printers; the various types of work that images performed, including evidentiary, emblematic, allegorical, illustrative, and ornamental; images in printed versus manuscript books; the relationships between images, texts, and objects; the artistic and artisanal practices, materials, and techniques used to create images; the spaces and people involved in making and interpreting images; and trust and mistrust of images in books. Normally, the course is organized to maximize our time looking at original materials held in rare books collections in Los Angeles (such as the Huntington Library, the Getty Research Institute, USC Special Collections, UCLA Special Collections, etc.). This year, with the class online, we will have “virtual tours” hosted by curators at various institutions in Los Angeles and beyond.

Requirements: No previous experience necessary.

Years taught: 2019, 2021