Browse Exhibits (80 total)

Codicology of Tufts University Ms. 7


Tufts University Ms. 7: Passio Domini nostri Ihesu Christi, is a 15th Century Italian collection of Gospel sequences suited to use in private devotion.

The book consists of 34 folios, or 68 pages, of parchment. The text is in a humanistic miniscule. Examples of humanist scribal practice include the use of ampersands, ligatures, and white vine initials. Rubrics to the four Gospels are in blue and gold, and there are three-line initials of burnished gold throughout the text.

In the 19th Century the book was owned by the English actress Ellen Terry. It was donated to Tufts by Walter F. Welch, Jr., Class of 1928, a gift acknowledged on June 16, 1965.


Medical, Chirurgical, and Anatomical Cases and Experiments; communicated by Dr. Haller (1758)



Medical, Chirurgical and Anatomical Cases and Experiments by Dr. Albrecht von Haller is a collection of medical cases and experiments put together by the Royal-Academy of Sciences at Stockholm in 1758. In additional to reports of interesting medical cases and experiments by various physicians of the time, the book also includes copper plates accompanying some of these accounts, which provide an interesting perspective of the understanding of the medical field at the time. In total, the volume consists of 31 different cases reported to the Royal-Academy of Science at Stockholm and an additional 14 experiments.  The cases range from extraordinary accounts of worms exiting a woman’s ulcer to practical everyday accounts of children suffering from small stature or potential treatments for mental illness. The unique nature of these cases is reminicent of earlier categorizationof the wonders and unexpected works of nature. 

The main author of this text, Dr. Albrecht von Haller, was a Swiss scientist, who is considered by many as the father of experimental physiology and contributed greatly to the medical field with his encyclopedia, Elementa Physiologiae Corporis Humani.[1]The text played the unique role of sharing and circulating medical findings before this became more commonplace in popular journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine in the United States or The Lancet in the UK about a half century later. It is clear tht even at this point the importance of reporting and shairng knowledge of unique medical cases and natures role in the human body was important. This book remains an interesting source and view of early medical case study.

Bibliographic Informaion of the Text: 

Haller, Albrecht von. Medical, Chirurgical and Anatomical Cases and Experiments Communicated by Dr. Haller, and Other Eminent Physicians, to the Royal-Academy of Sciences at Stockholm. Translated from the Swedish Original. Illustrated with Copper Plates. London: printed for A. Linde, P. Davey and B. Law, and J. Staples, 1758.

[1] “Albrecht von Haller | Biography - Swiss Biologist,” Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed April 13, 2015,


A Collection of Very Valuable and Scarce Pieces Relating to the Last Plague in the Year 1665

A Collection of Very Valuable and Scarce Pieces Relating to the last Plague in the Year 1665 (London, 1721) is a book which includes a collection of documents relating to the plague in London.  This book was used to help prevent future diseases from being as destructive as the plague was in London during the late-sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  The first chapter includes orders made by the Mayor Lord of London that were meant to help prevent the spread of disease.  This section includes instructions on when to report illness, how to handle sick patients and their belongings, as well as other orders the Mayor believed would be effective in containing the spread of disease.  The second section of the book includes personal accounts from Dr. Hodges on different symptoms as well as his experiences with the disease. The third section presents remedies and possible cures for the plague.  The book also includes the weekly bills of mortality for three different bouts of plague that hit London.  The final part of this book includes an account of the Plague of 1665 in Italy.  This book is a compilation of different documents on how to handle disease.



Nature and Knowledge in F.O. Morris' A History of British Birds



Volume I of A History of British Birds by Frances Orpen Morris was published in 1862 and reflects the motif of classification in natural history. Morris, born in 1810 in Ireland, was not educated to be a scientist but actually a reverend, yet his interests ranged from naturalism to etymology to biblical studies. This particular work was completed during a time when scientists were fascinated by classifying and identifying species and thus the text elucidates how nature was observed and documented in the nineteenth century. In this work, the subject matter is limited to British birds, yet Morris provides nuanced and detailed insight into the birds’ environments, physical appearances, diets, life cycles, and other factors. Each chapter in this book commences with a realistic illustration of the bird for the respective chapter seemingly drawn from observation. Unlike works documenting nature in previous centuries that infused the mythical with the real, this work is grounded in fact and observation, whether Morris actually observed these birds or cited sources that did. His accounts and descriptions of birds heavily cite other sources and include theories of his own, illustrating the quest for documenting and synthesizing knowledge on nature at this period in history. Therefore, Morris’ A History of British Birds illuminates the classification of natural knowledge in 19th century Europe.

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"Natural History of Man" by James Cowles Prichard (1848)


James Cowles Prichard's work, The Natural History of Man, is a pre-Darwinian text that attempts to categorize all known races in the world in order to create an organized account based on the varying characteristics of the races. Prichard's work emphasizes the university of man as a single species, thus holding the biblical notion of man derived from a single being true. He went against the current trend in anthology, lead by scientist Bluemenbach, in that he did not believe that a race's characteristics could simply be defined by mere observational information. Yet in this text, Prichard serves to provide a description of various races, both physical and cultural while simultaneously highlighting the unity of man as a single species. His work begins with a brief scientific overview of anthropological categorization popular during the time and then proceeds to provide numerous "case studies" of different races in which he incorporates various explorer's observations and insights along with his own commentary.


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Baron George Cuvier's Comparative Animal Anatomy



Le Règne animal distribue d’après son organisation by Baron George Cuvier is a collection of five volumes describing the species of the animal kingdom, organized by their relationships to one another. This is the second edition of the text, published in 1829, which appeared in its original form in 1817. All of the volumes include a small introduction to the volume’s specific subject, an index, and hundreds of entries including some for extinct species. There are no illustrations in the text volume, but a collection of accompanying plates and images was published separately in nine volumes by a friend of Cuvier.[1]

Baron George Cuvier (1769-1832) was a French naturalist and zoologist. He was heavily influenced by the works of Linnaeus. He did extensive anatomical studies of both modern specimens and paleontological remains that he had found which were critical to confirmation of the theory of extinction. While he did not believe in evolution, his work and discoveries would be cited as evidence for the theories put forward by Darwin.[2]

[1] Guérin-Méneville, Felix-Edouard (1829–1844).Iconographie du règne animal de G. Cuvier: ou, représentation d'aprés nature de l'une des espèces les plus remarquables, et souvent non encore figurées, de chaque genre d'amimaux . Avec un texte descriptif mis au courant de la science (50 parts in 9 volumes, quarto ed.). Paris: J. B. Baillière.

[2] Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Review, "Life of Cuvier," 1835, 451–463.


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Esopo Medici: Facsimile Edition (15th Century)



The Aesop's Fables are referenced in many well known works from Antiquity.  The series of fables, as well as their alleged author, are cited by Herodotus, Plato, and Aristotle in their works on political, religious and social philosophy.  The geographical origins of the fables is often up for debate with differing camps arguing provenance from the Far East or Western Asia.  Most present day version written in Greek are said to be catalogued from the author, Babrius (2nd century AD).  

The history of the original Esopo Medici from which this codex is copied is as rich and colorful as the manuscript itself.  Subsequently referred to as Ms. Spencer 50, it is qualified as "a truly sumptuous manuscript, obviously made for a highly placed client of prestige," (Labriola). Thought to be commissioned by Lorenzo de Medici in or around 1480, Ms. Spencer 50 was transcribed on vellum in Greek and accompanied by beautifully illustrated miniatures depicting the fable.  It was originally transcribed and bound together with another work attributed to Aesop, Life.  As noted in subsequent sections, the Greek script has been attributed to the famed Cretan scribe, Demetrio Damilas and the miniatures are thought to be the work of a team of miniaturists and illuminators in the workshop of Francesco di Antonio del Chierico.  The frontispiece of the Fables is attributed to Mariano del Buono.  The illustrations themselves are the major selling point of Ms. Spencer 50 and lend to its historiographical significance as this codex is believed to be the first transcription of the Fables that included such elaborate illustrated depictions of the tales.  In fact, prior to Ms. Spencer 50, all other versions of the Fables were used solely for educational purposes in schools.

Although the manuscript has been well preserved it has endured some general damage. At its origination, Ms. Spencer 50 contained 147 fables but in its current state only 135 have been preserved with five missing pages, seven missing fables, and five incomplete fables.  There is also the presence of moderate water damage to the folios in the second half of the codex (36r-75r), luckily avoiding the superbly preserved miniatures which set this manuscript apart from other compilations. 

Primary Source: Esopo Medici. Facsimile Edition of a manuscript written in Greek from the New York Public Library, Spencer Collection. Written by Demetrio Damilas; illuminated by Mariano del Buono and the Master of the Hamilton Xenophon.  Florence, copied from the edition printed by Bonus Accursius at Milan ca. 1480. <>

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Musaeum Regalis Societatis by Nehemiah Grew (1681)

Musaeum Regalis Societatis, or, A catalogue & description of the natural and artificial rarities belonging to the Royal Society and preserved at Gresham Colledge


“’Musaeum Regalis Societatis’, or, A catalogue & description of the natural and artificial rarities belonging to the Royal Society and preserved at Gresham Colledge” was written by Nehemiah Grew in 1681.  It is a combination of two writings, the categorization of the Royal Society’s rarities and the lectures given by Grew at Gresham College on the comparative anatomy of the digestive system of various animals.  The curiosities are categorized in four sections: animals, plants, minerals, and artificial objects. The Royal Society acquired the specimens through various donors.  The artificial objects section is significant because they presented new innovations gifted by their inventors.[1]  The second section of the book “The Comparative Anatomy of Stomachs and Guts” is a series of lectures and images comparing and contrasting the anatomical structure of multiple species.[2]  

Nehemiah Grew was born in 1641 and became a notable physician and botanist.[3]  He became the appointed co-curator to the Royal Society in 1672 with Robert Hooke, who was responsible for lectures and demonstrations.  Grew began cataloging the museum of acquisitions in 1678 and finished one year later.  In addition to cataloging the Museum, Grew wrote various publications on plants and anthropology, including his greatest work “The Anatomy of Vegetables.”[4]

[1] William R. Lefanu, “The Versatile Nehemiah Grew,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 115, no. 6 (December 30, 1971): 504.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 502.

[4] Ibid., 503.


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New England's Prospect


This exhibit looks at the book New England's Prospect by William Wood.  The book itself was written as a travel guide in 1635 for anyone that might be interested in traveling the northeastern United States.  It gives some information on weather, animals, fruits, herbs, and Native Americans.  The focus of the first half of the book centers on the wildlife and environment of the northeastern United States.  Wood describes what herbs are good to eat, as well as when it is the best time to hunt dear.  He then goes into detail on each individual town, and even gives some insight into a number of Native American communities.  In the second part, Wood gives some insight into Native American language and tradition.  Wood takes the time to look at each individual tribe, as well as their traditions, political structures, and religious practices.  In the last few pages, Wood offers a number of translations so as to improve the travelers’ ability to interact with the indigenous peoples. It gives the reader a large amount of information and assumes that they have no background in the region before opening the book.  However, New England’s Prospect differs from a normal piece of travel writing in a number of ways.  Firstly, it assumes that the reader has the intention of going to New England and actually utilizing the text as a guide.  Secondly, it gives almost no personal background and insight throughout the text.  While Wood does mention a select number of anecdotes, he does not couch the text in story. In many ways, it is written like a contemporary travel guide, such as Lonely Planet.

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Peterborough Bestiary

The Peterborough Bestiary is a fascinating manuscript that was created around the beginning of the 14th century. The Bestiary was written and illustrated by an unknown, yet recognizable through other works, scribe who was likely a person of high ranking in the Peterborough cathedral.[1] The manuscript, which is actually a compilation of two well-known works that describe animals, Physiologus, dating from the 2nd century, and Isidore of Seville’s multi-volume Etymologiae, dating from the 7th century, was likely created for someone else of high ranking in the church.[2] Bestiaries were pieces that were compiled written around the High Middle Ages, all serving the relatively similar purpose of depicting and describing a wide variety of different animals. This bestiary in particular is noted for the over 100 incredibly ornate illustrations of animals.

A great deal can be observed from the Peterborough Bestiary in regards to nature and knowledge. As a bestiary, the manuscript serves as a great example of knowledge of physical nature from the time it was created. The sheer volume of different animals that are both described and depicted is impressive. However, many animals are given fantastical qualities, and both real and mythological animals were depicted, with no separation between the two. This lack of understanding which animals were real and which were not indicates limits to the knowledge of physical nature from the time this bestiary was created. Arguably more important than physical nature, however, was the knowledge of moral nature. Many of the qualities of animals were linked to or justified by biblical passages. These animal qualities were often considered either positive qualities that follow in the way of Jesus, or negative qualities that embody the Devil. In short, these spiritual reflections in the bestiary, which occur on both real and mythical creatures, are unique and can be interpreted as proxy behaviors for how mankind should act, and present a fascinating view on knowledge of moral nature at the time. An argument can even be made that these spiritual behavoirs of animals provided justification for many that the physical world itself was goverened by the Word of God and the Bible. The Peterborough Bestiary can thus be seen as a manuscript that embodies and blends both flawed knowledge of physical nature and deeper knowledge of moral nature.

[1]Lucy Freeman Sandler (cont.), and Christopher De Hamel and Hans Zotter (trans.),  Aus Peterborough = The Peterborough Bestiary : Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, Parker Library, MS 53 (fol. 189-210). Commentary on the Facsimile Edition, part i. (Stuttgart: Faksimile Verlag Luzern, 2003), 24.

[2] Ibid., 28.