by August Johann Rösel von Rosenhof Print book
A Marvelous Spectacle   (2009-03-26)
Historia Naturalis Ranarum, or the Natural History of Frogs, is indeed a marvelous spectacle. Published in 1758, it still stands today as the world’s most beautiful book on all things "froggy." Rosel von Rosenhof, the artist and the author, was not only an accomplished painter but also a naturalist and entomologist who raised his own specimens of amphibians and insects, observing and depicting meticulously the natural processes of metamorphosis and development.
This sumptuously illustrated folio features a frontispiece consisting of a full-color engraving of amphibians amid wetland plants and blooming roses, in what appears to be a corner of a pond, while in the background stands a stone engraved with Virgil’s words “Admiranda levium spectacular rerum,” referring to the wonder of life when closely observed at a small scale.
There are a total of 24 plates, each one revealed first in black and white, then with the fully hand-colored engraving following, which makes for an interesting comparative study in itself. The text is in Latin and German and covers frog development, osteology, anatomy and natural history. Also scattered throughout the text are delightful small engraved vignettes, many of which feature frogs when closely examined. This book is one of the treasures of the Research Library of the San Diego Natural History Museum.
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