University of Erfurt

Gotha Research Centre of the University of Erfurt

Projekt von Frederick Crofts M.A.

Tracing a Visual Ideology in sixteenth-century Natural Philosophy through the ‘Books of Birds’ from Marcus zum Lamm’s Thesaurus Picturarum (1564-1606)

The Thesaurus Picturarum of the Heidelberger lawyer and church councillor Marcus zum Lamm (compiled between ca. 1564-1606) offers us a very special window into the past. The combined images and texts of this thirty-two volume visual Encyclopaedia reveal at once the uniqueness of a local and subjective historical reality, and a nexus point between trans-confessional exchanges of the visual and epistemological systems that shaped scholarly ways of seeing and knowing during the age of Confessionalisation (1555-1618). Furthermore, its images, and particularly the drawings of birds (vols. 29-32) which are the concern of this presentation, shed light on the significance of visual ideologies in early modern Europe, as the natural philosophical traditions of late Renaissance humanism gave way to a more recognisably modern brand of empiricism and the so-called ‘new science’ of the seventeenth-century. It is at this moment where the modes of seeing-the-world as modern ‘scientific’ Europeans discernibly began, and it is therefore of significance to our own age that we understand how (what I will refer to as) ideologies of seeing can be traced through the threads of a historical process, and that they have resultantly had an affect on popular consciousness, demanding we recognise particular images as true and others as false. It must be made clear that this investigation does not, however, claim this moment in the history of science, art, and culture as an isolatable juncture between the retroactive dogmas of Renaissance and Enlightenment, rather through this discussion I suggest only the relativity of zum Lamm’s images (and their concomitants) to their age, and their discrete – yet important – situation within the precession of European ideologies of seeing and knowing as part of a longue durée.

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