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James Sowerby: British Mineralogy (1802–1817)

Work / Illustration

Wellcome Collection publishes book of early infographics, charts and diagrams for organising nature

Animal. Vegetable. Mineral. is a publication from Wellcome Collection celebrating how humans visually classified and organised the sprawling natural world in an important era of scientific research. Made to accompany the upcoming exhibition Making Nature, it features archival charts, diagrams, maps, lists and illustrations of variants of species and organism types, delightful in their intricate and informative detail.

Most were ordering systems and tools devised by pioneering European nature researchers, artists, scientists and explorers. The book features visuals from key 18th and 19th Century figures that “shaped the course of natural history” such as Charles Darwin, Carl Linnaeus, Alexander Von Humboldt, Anna Atkins and Ernst Haeckel.

It was “the original big data challenge” says Wellcome during a time when our understanding of nature was rapidly evolving and expanding, for these pioneers to document and present their findings. Many of these images, from taxonomy charts and animal distribution maps to colourful picture dictionaries, show the creativity at hand during this process.

Animal. Vegetable. Mineral. by Tim Dee is published 1 December. Making Nature opens from 1 December 2016 – 21 May 2017, and brings together over 100 objects from literature, film, taxidermy and photography, “to examine the historical origins of our ideas about other animals and the consequences of these for ourselves and our planet.”

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Biodiversity Heritage Library: History of North American Birds XXIX

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Wellcome Library: A General View of the Animal Kingdom

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Sidney Hall: Mountain (1917). Courtesy: Wellcome Images.

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David Rumsey: Dogs of All Nations Map (1936)

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David Rumsey: Comparitive Waterfall Map

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Wellcome Library: Geology, A Cross Section of Mountains

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David Rumsey: Meterologie

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David Rumsey: Picture of organised nature as extending over the earth.

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Wellcome Library: Linnaeus Leaves

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Alois Auer: Nature printed leaves. Courtesy: Wellcome Images.

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Ernst Haeckel: Tree of Life depicting the Pedigree of Man (1879)

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Louis Agassiz: Crust of the Earth as related to Zoology