Thursday, August 09, 2007

Book Review: "Amazing Rare Things"

I'm a sucker for natural history illustration, so I couldn't miss a new book out from Yale, Amazing Rare Things: The Art of Natural History in the Age of Discovery. Highlighting paintings held in the Royal Collections, the book features beautifully-reproduced artwork by Leonardo da Vinci, Alexander Marshal, Maria Sibylla Merian and Mark Catesby, as well as a selection of those works collected by Cassiano dal Pozzo for his "paper museum." Each section includes an essay on the artist's background and his/her works; these are good introductions to the illustrators and complement the chosen illustrations well.

David Attenborough contributed the introduction to the book, noting that for all the different purposes behind the creation of natural history art, "there is a common denominator that links all these artists. It is the profound joy felt by all who observe the natural world with a sustained and devoted intensity." Attenborough also intersperses short comments amongst the essays and plates; these you can almost hear him reading in that distinctive voice of his.

A lovely book, one which I shall browse often.