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Gesner 1565

Gesner 1565

De omni rerum fossilium genere, gemmis, lapidibus, metallis, et huiusmodi, libri aliquot, plerique nunc primum editi by Konrad Gesner 1565

Geoscientist 20.4 April 2010

It might not be the oldest volume in the Society’s collection – that accolade goes to Agricola’s De ortu & causis subterraneorum (1546); but Konrad Gesner’s De Omni Rerum… is certainly one of the most interesting. Gesner (1516-65), nicknamed ‘the German Pliny’ by Cuvier, was a prolific writer on a variety of subjects, including theology, zoology, botany, and linguistics, and famously produced Bibliotheca universalis (1574), a catalogue of all the writers that had ever lived.

De Omni Rerum, a little door-stop of a book, re-bound at a later date with intricate gold tooling on vellum, shows Gesner off as a collator, editor and translator. We might think that collecting essays by various authors into one edited volume is a relatively recent development in academic publishing; but here we see that it has a long history. Gesner collected together and introduced, in Latin, eight separate books by different authors, on subjects ranging from fossils to gems, lapidaries to ‘variae & eruditae’ observations on metals.

This beautiful book is not just an account of scientific advancement, or a historical collector's item; it is an introduction to these learned men’s thinking; a tribute from one eminent scientist to others whom he admired. It is, indeed, a very early form of ‘special publication’.