University of Arizona

20,000 Facts and Fables

Pliny's "Natural History" in Early Modern Europe

Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder

With thousands of details from hundreds of sources, the Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder was a standard reference work throughout the Middle Ages, lovingly copied wherever Latin was read. Based on hearsay as well as wide reading and personal research (the author died investigating the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79) it raised many questions about the marvels it reported and sometimes questioned. Featured in the talk are two early printed editions from the late 1400s and some English responses, including Sir Thomas Browne's study of errors in the famous book.

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