I-40. The Illustrated Scientific Book to 1800

Caroline Duroselle-Melish Roger Gaskell

“This course was an excellent balance of lecture, book examination, historical techniques instruction, and discussion.” — 2016 student

Course Length: 30 hours
Course Week: 7–12 July 2024
Format: in person, University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA
Fee: $1,495

This course will consider the production, formal qualities, and role of images in scientific books. The focus of the course will be on how and why images were made. Students will be asked to consider images with the same attention to the techniques and conditions of production given to verbal texts. Examples will be drawn from a wide range of scientific, medical, technical, and natural history books from the earliest years of printing to 1800, with case studies of illustrated books by such key figures as Vesalius, Galileo, and Hooke. The intention is to interpret the illustrated scientific book, not to provide a history of scientific illustration. Topics will include: the roles of authors, artists, block cutters, engravers and printers; the interrelationships of images and verbal texts; and the operation of diagrams, representational illustrations, and graphic displays of data in scientific communication. Students will learn to describe and analyze images, and we will discuss ways in which the current standards of bibliographical description can be extended to take account of illustrative content.

Rare Book School’s teaching collection of printing surfaces and sample pages will be used to help students identify different graphic processes, and the technical aspects of text and image will be studied at first-hand, printing on the replica eighteenth-century common press and rolling press (see presswork).

There will be sessions in UVA’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library (with its strengths in architecture, navigation, and astronomy) and sessions with the medical books from the UVA Health Sciences Library. A highlight of the course–new this year–will be a field trip to Upperville, Virginia, to visit the private Oak Spring Garden Library in order to study some of the most spectacular color plate natural history books.

The course will be of value to historians, librarians, and others who wish to incorporate book history in their research and teaching, to develop their knowledge of early modern illustrated books, and to acquire the skills necessary for the analysis and interpretation of these works.

In their personal statements, applicants should describe their background, if any, in bibliography and the history of science, though neither is a pre-requisite. Students who have taken I-20 and G-10 should expect some overlap at the start of the course, and will have a valuable foundation for the analytical approach that we will be taking. Students are required to upload a copy of their most recent CV along with their personal statement.

Please note: the tuition for this course is $1,495 owing to the expenses associated with the scheduled field trip.

Click here to view the course description for the virtual version of this course, “Making the Early Modern Illustrated Scientific Book.”

Course History

Caroline Duroselle-Melish and Roger Gaskell co-teach this course.
Roger Gaskell teaches this course, assisted by Caroline Duroselle-Melish, online as "Making the Early Modern Illustrated Scientific Book" (10 hours).
Roger Gaskell teaches this course, assisted by Caroline Duroselle-Melish.

Course Resources

  • Advance Reading List
  • Evaluations for this course:

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  • Caroline Duroselle-Melish
  • Roger Gaskell

Caroline Duroselle-Melish

Caroline Duroselle-Melish is President of the Bibliographical Society of America, the Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints, and Associate Librarian for Collection Care and Development at the Folger Shakespeare Library. She was previously Assistant Curator in the Department of Printing and Graphic Arts at Houghton Library, Harvard University.



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Roger Gaskell

Roger Gaskell is a retired antiquarian bookseller specializing in scientific medical and technical books, and has worked closely with academic libraries in the U.K. and the U.S. He has taught seminars in book history and scientific illustration at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Since 2013, he has taught a course on illustrated scientific books at Rare Book School. He has served as a council member of the Bibliographical Society (U.K.).

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