A cluster of spiders - celebrating In with the Spiders exhibit

by Ann Sylph on

A spider celebration this month with the opening of the new In with the Spiders on 23 May at ZSL London Zoo. Whilst at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo you can get up close to spiders in the Discovery Centre.

Woodcut of spiders on page 608 De animalibus insectis libri septem ... / autore Ulisse Aldrovandi, Bonon. :  apud Clementum Ferronium, [1638].
A cluster of spiders on page 608 of Aldrovandi's De animalibus insectis libri septem

These images are from one of the oldest books in ZSL Library dedicated to the subject of insects and other invertebrates : -  De animalibus insectis libri septem ... / autore Ulisse Aldrovandi, Bonon. :  apud Clementum Ferronium, [1638]. During the Renaissance Ulisse Adrovandi  (1522-1605) published a whole series of books in Latin in which he aimed to accurately identify and describe the largest possible number of animals, minerals and plants. As far as possible his research was based on inspection of specimens resulting in him establishing his own extensive museum of specimens and images. The specimens were used as the basis of the woodcuts illustrating his published works as he realised the value of the illustrations accompanying the text. During his lifetime he managed to publish only three volumes of his Natural History, the remaing 9 volumes were brought out be the Senate of Bologna between 1605 and 1667 but with changes and additions.  He bequeathed his collections to the city of Bologna.

Spider illustration in Rösel van Rosenhof [1764]
Spider illustration in Rösel van Rosenhof, [1764]

This beautiful image is from  De natuurlyke historie der insecten, ... volgens eigen ondervinding beschreeven, / door August Johann Rösel van Rosenhof; met zeer nutte en fraaie aanmerkingen verrykt, door C.F.C. Kleemann; uit den echten hoogduitschen druk... en de geschreeven aanmerkingen van den Heer Kleemann vertaald..., Haarlem :  Bohn & Wit, [1764].

We have featured Rösel von Rosenhof’s volume on amphibians in a previous `Artefact’ so please do take the opportunity to enjoy these as well http://www.zsl.org/blogs/artefact-of-the-month/historia-naturalis-ranarum-nostratium-die-nat%C3%BCrliche-historie-der 

The earliest book on British spiders was written by Martin Lister, in 1678 and again in Latin. This is also one of the earliest natural history books associated with a woman! The illustrations for the volume were done by his wife, Hannah Lister nee Parkinson. This book has been translated into English and this version was published in 1992 as Martin Lister's English spiders 1678 / translated from the original Latin by Malcolm Davies and Basil Harley ; edited with an introduction and notes by John Parker and Basil Harley, Colchester :  Harley, 1992. This book is available for loan to ZSL Fellows so you are welcome to borrow and enjoy it in your own home!

Do enjoy looking at these images and take the opportunity to visit the new Spider exhibit at ZSL London Zoo over half term and the Discovery Centre at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.


Further reading :

The great naturalists / edited by Robert Huxley, London : Thames and Hudson, 2007

Martin Lister's English spiders 1678 / translated from the original Latin by Malcolm Davies and Basil Harley ; edited with an introduction and notes by John Parker and Basil Harley, Colchester :  Harley, 1992


If you are a ZSL Fellow or Member please do also visit ZSL Library. Others are also welcome but please do bring photographic ID and proof of address when you visit, see  ZSL Library Collection for details. ZSL Fellows may borrow post-1940 books from ZSL LIbrary

These`artefacts’ are historic books and form part of our Special Collections so you would normally need to make an appointment to view them. However both featured books will be displayed in ZSL Library throughout May.

 ZSL Library is open weekdays 9.30am to 5.30pm but is closed on bank holidays.

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