Exotic birds, crawly insects, and dinosaur bones. Esoteric discussions of measuring mountains and encounters with mysterious atmospheric phenomena. Sound like the stuff of natural history? In a way, yes. To build their collections, the Rosenbach brothers acquired objects of comfort: rare books, historical documents, and decorative arts. Luckily, these objects happen also to document the history of natural history: the creatures, the earth, the sky, and the scientists who endeavored to understand it all.
As beautiful and inspiring as it is substantive, this exhibition displays some of the most stunning natural history illustrations in the Rosenbach collections, along with historical documents and decorative arts that document the history of natural history in America. Highlights include the landmark 18th-century natural history encyclopedia, Buffon’s Histoire naturelle générale et particuliére, and Thomas Jefferson’s defense of the American continent’s prehistory. These objects show off nature at its finest, and reflect our nation’s early discourse about nature.
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