A great deal has been written about the increased accessibility of scientific information following the rise of the printed book, especially regarding the growth of empirical methods of study. Little attention has been devoted, however, to the role that illustrated images played in early modern (c. 1500-1700) printed books as modes of visual information that conveyed new content to an expanded audience. Images did much more than merely illustrate text; they shaped information in ways that, in certain cases, had a more far-reaching impact than textual content alone. Moreover, scientists and publishers often made significant use of pre-existing printed images as convenient visual models for new scientific phenomena. Using specific examples of natural history illustration, this paper will present my recent research on the complex and influential position of images as a critical part of emerging knowledge networks in early modern scientific discourse.
Michelle Moseley-Christian is an Associate Professor of Art History in the School of Visual Arts. Her primary areas of research and teaching include Baroque and Renaissance visual and material culture. She recently completed residential research fellowships at Oxford University and the Scaliger institute at Leiden University in the Netherlands. She was a recipient of a 2015 CAUS Excellence in Scholarship Award.