History Faculty Publications


Review: 'The Science of Describing: Natural History in Renaissance Europe'

Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date

Spring 2008

Publication Source



The author of this book has written a beautifully crafted monograph on Renais- sance natural history. This is a learned, scholarly, and analytical work that goes well beyond surveys in the history of science or Renaissance history, yet at the same time is eminently readable and at times rather entertaining, no mean feat when considering the subject matter. Where else can one learn of the early natural history of the walrus and the bird of paradise? For this reviewer, who gained an extensive background in the history of Renaissance science while in graduate school long ago, but then moved on to more modern research interests, this book reacquainted him with old friends, so to speak, and important material that he had not thought about in years. It is a study that is at the heart of any broad understanding of the history of science, and interpretively critical for its views concerning the period that followed the Renaissance, namely the Scientific Revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. If one is interested in learning much about the Renaissance in terms of the place of the ancients, as well as the methods and new directions of the humanists, there is no better way to explore and understand the period than to read Brian W. Ogilvie.

Inclusive pages





Permission documentation is on file.

Citation information for the book: Ogilvie, Brian W. The Science of Describing: Natural History in Renaissance Europe. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2006.


John Wiley & Sons





Peer Reviewed