Monstrorum Historia: pioneering document of modern science

In the vast scientific history, a unique treatise is erected that fuses the wonder of mythology with the rigor of reality: “Monstrorum historia”. This fascinating compendium, published in 1642 after the death of its author, stands out as one of the first modern scientific treatises. Its pages detail descriptions and illustrations of mythological beings with clinical stories and real veterinary experiences. This pioneering document of science invites you to take an intriguing journey where the line between fantasy and scientific observation is blurred in a unique way.

Image included in the document Monstrorum Historia
Monstrorum History – Image from Xataka
Monstrorum historia represents one of the first known scientific documents

Imaginary creatures known as monsters have always instilled fear in people due to their appearance or character. However, in a past where the world and humanity were yet to be explored, monsters had a different nature than what we know today.

These were times when both exotic animals and human beings were perceived as extraordinary beings. They considered this document fascinating because it explored the “monstrous.” It included cases of both human deformity and animality.

This masterpiece was published decades after the death of its author. The work stands out for its woodcut illustrations, which capture both oddities and familiar creatures that were strange.

The author insisted that graphic representations had to be made from observation of nature or available specimens. This is how he created his personal collection of strange creatures. However, upon exploring the diverse content of the document, it is evident that he did not limit himself to excluding great monsters from myths, legends, and travellers' tales.

Monstrorum Historia is a unique window into the unusual. It provides a different perspective on the diversity of extraordinary beings that populated the collective imagination in times past with its detailed illustrations and stories. The 1642 edition is a unique copy that is part of the ancient collection of the Documentation Center of the Canary Islands and America (CEDOCAM).

sea ​​monsters
Sea monsters, Monstrorum Historia- Image from Xataka
Who was Ulisse Aldrovandi? The creator of Monstrorum Historia

Ulisse Aldrovandi, born in Bologna, Italy, and educated at the university of that city, stood out as a professor of logic and philosophy. In 1549, he faced accusations of heresy for endorsing Anabaptist ideas, so he was transferred to Rome for a year. During his house arrest, he fell in love with the natural world, and began a work that would shape the rest of his life.

Upon returning to Bologna, he undertook the formation of an extraordinary cabinet of curiosities intended to reflect the diversity of the natural world. His collection grew to include more than 7,000 specimens, along with several thousand herbarium specimens and plants. Furthermore, he played a crucial role in the creation of the Botanical Garden of Bologna, which survives today.

Starting from these accumulated treasures, Aldrovandi began to document his collection. Over the course of his life, he produced around 400 volumes of written works, although only a small number of these were printed while he was alive.

When he died in 1605, he left his vast collection to the Senate of Bologna, and many of his unpublished works were published years after his death. Among his most notable works are “Monstrorum Historia”. Much of his cabinet of curiosities is preserved in the Aldrovandi Museum in the Palazzo Poggi in Bologna.

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