Artefact of the month - January 2011
Marine Invertebrates in Testacea utriusque Silciliae [Shells of the Two Sicilies] eorumque historia et anatome by Josephus Xaverius Poli, Palma, 1791-1827.
Josephus Poli abandoned his medical practice moving to Naples to devote himself to natural science, he had wide range of interests including many aspects of physics, geology, plants and marine animals. His collections together with those of the Royal Bourbon Museum formed the basis of the Zoological Museum of Naples.
Poli was appointed by Ferdinand IV, King of the Two Silicies, to teach his son the future Francis I. This appointment gave Poli financial support and easy access to the sea enabling him to carry out extensive research in marine biology. For 12 years he studied Mediterranean molluscs resulting in the publication of these beautifully illustrated folio volumes. He outlined a new classification for molluscs based on his anatomical descriptions. He was one of the first people to study molluscs as distinct from the study of their shells only. According S. Peter Dance and David Heppell in Classic natural history prints : Shells (London : Studio Editions) he 'named many new genera based on anatomical differences, but he proposed a parallel set of names for their shells and also retained the older Linnaean names for the animals and shell together. This cumbersome system of naming molluscs caused Poli’s otherwise excellent researches to be greatly undervalued by later generations.'
The detailed engravings were made by a variety of artists including Niccolo Cesarano and Francesco Morelli enhancing these intriguing volumes.
If you are interest in marine biology ZSL is holding a Symposium on 3 and 4 February on the subject of marine protected areas please look at Marine Protected Areas on the high seas - symposium for details.
Please note that ZSL Library will close on Thursday 23 December and reopen on Tuesday 4 January 2011.