Browse Exhibits (6 total)

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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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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Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho


The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe, was published in 1794. While it was not her first work, it would be Radcliffe's most popular. The copy currently held in Tisch Special Collections is the second edition, and was purchased by the university in 1908. This copy had been a part of the circulating library before it was added to special collections. This exhibit will look at the physical qualities of the book, as well as its provenance. 

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"A Guide to Health, Beauty, Riches, and Honour" by Francis Grose (1783)

Preface to Guide.jpg

A facsimile of Francis Grose's "A Guide to Health, Beauty, Riches, and Honour" (1783). Accessed in Tisch Library Special Collections. A collection of British newspaper advertisements from 1730-1750, with an eight-page preface by Grose. The text was rebound in the late 19th Century for Edward and Hugh Doggett to include a copy of George Paul's "Thoughts on the Alarming Process of the Gaol Fever." The text is written in English, but contains several untranslated entries in French. Each entry has a capitalized number and title stating what it pertains to, as well as an italicized publication name and date.

The purpose of the text is to satirize the charlatanism present in 18th Century British advertisements. Grose presents a collection of British newspaper advertisements pertaining to categories from medical treatments to offers of marriage, in order to display the outlandish effects of the society’s increasing focus on consumption. By collecting antiquarian ephemera and employing a satirical tone in his writing, Grose’s guide reflects on eighteenth-century British society for what it was, criticizing the preoccupation with wealth and status during a time of supposed prosperity. 

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"An Authentic Account of An Embassy from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China" by Sir George Leonard Staunton (1799)

The Approach of the Emperor of China to His Tent in Tartary to Receive the British Ambassador, by William Alexander (1793). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Macartney Embassy is distinguished as the first British attempt at East Asian diplomacy but defined by its failure. Upon the mission’s return, Sir George Leonard Staunton, first baronet, was tasked with compiling his expedition partners’ extensive journals into a cohesive work. An Authentic Account of an Embassy from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China is a markedly reserved telling of the British ambassadors’ travels in China. However, from a historical perspective, Staunton’s work reveals an underlying chauvinism that would provide justification for Western imperialism in China.

The nature of this exhibit is introductory and relates primarily to the bibliographic features of the Tufts Special Collections' 1799 Philadelphia edition of the book. The remainder of the analysis is devoted to Staunton's descriptions of the exchange ceremony between the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty and the Macartney Embassy. The author of this exhibit would strongly encourage further investigation into the topic if a reader feels so inclined.

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