Natural History and the New World
An Annotated Bibliography of Printed Materials
in the Library of the
American Philosophical Society
by Anita Guerrini
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, seeking to increase the scholarly usefulness of our collections and enrich the intellectual life of the Library, made a grant in 1982 to the American Philosophical Society establishing a fellowship program in bibliography, research scholarship, and staff development. The major thrust of the program is to provide fellowships for younger scholars who will prepare bibliographic studies on topics well represented in the Library's collections.
Dr. Anita Guerrini, visiting assistant professor of the history of medicine at the University of Minnesota, was one of our two Mellon Fellows in Bibliography in 1984-85. Her ably annotated bibliography of the Library's imprints of North and South American natural history, together with its valuable introduction, should be of interest to a broad range of seasoned scholars and graduate students. Dr. Guerrini's previous research and writing on eighteenth-century Newtonianism and her bibliographical work at the National Library of Medicine made her especially well qualified to survey this most important aspect of the Library's collections. Mention should also be made of Mark V. Barrow, Jr., of our staff, who skillfully helped bring this volume to publication.
We would like to acknowledge the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that made possible this work and those that will follow.
Edward C. Carter II
American Philosophical Society
I wish first to thank Edward C. Carter II, Librarian of the American Philosophical Society, for his support and encouragement of this project, and also the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their grant to the Library which supported my year in Philadelphia.
The staff at the APS Library were uniformly helpful and friendly, and I was very sorry to leave them. In particular, Roy Goodman, reference librarian, provided many excellent suggestions and references, and associate librarian Hildegard Stephans guided me to computer semi-literacy with infinite patience and good humor. Frank Margeson, APS photographer, took the cover picture. Outside the APS, Frederick B. Churchill was extremely helpful in the formation of my initial proposal, and I have gained much benefit from the works of Joseph Ewan and from a conversation with him last autumn.
Last, but certainly not least, Michael Osborne shared his vast knowledge of this subject with me and helped in innumerable other ways. I hope I can repay him in kind.
Introduction In the early modern period, natural history was a "covering science" which included every aspect of nature-plants, animals, rocks and minerals, geography, and climate, as well as human beings and their behavior. This bibliography includes works on all these topics, running in time from the Cosmographicus Liber of Peter Apianus (1524, #13) to the 1770 translation of Per Kalm's Travels in North America (#157). In choosing a cutoff date of 1770, 1 have attempted to complement Max Meisel's magisterial Bibliography of American Natural History which begins with the year 1769. Meisel chose that date, the year of the reorganization of the American Philosophical Society (founded in 1743), to signify the beginning of organized scientific endeavor in the North American colonies, shortly to become the United States. I have organized this bibliography rather differently than Meisel did his. I have included only printed books, pamphlets, and broadsides; since Meisel surveyed periodical literature for the period before 1769, 1 have omitted it. In addition, I have included works covering the whole of the New World, north and south. In this earliest period of European incursion into the New World, any territorial divisions we now recognize would be anachronistic. The collections in the Library of the American Philosophical Society focus particularly on North America and the English-speaking colonies; therefore this bibliography is weighted in that direction, but several significant works on Latin America are also included.
The definition of "natural history" has occupied many historians, and my attempts to define it in this introduction are not meant to settle the question once and for all.' Rather, in the context of the 290 specific works below cited from the period 1524 to 1770, I intend to provide a point of reference from which historians can view this period and draw their own conclusions. In compiling this bibliography, I have made a distinction, probably artificial, between "natural history" and "natural philosophy," that is, between works mainly of observation and description and works of theory and generalization. The dividing line between these two areas of endeavor was never clear-cut, and as the period in question progressed, the line became even fainter. This blurring is especially evident in the works of writers who attempted to classify, rather than merely list. A system of classification reflects a certain theoretical outlook. Yet such works are also catalogues, and as such I have included them in this bibliography. My main justification for the inclusion of a work was its specific references to American phenomena, a criterion which excludes general experimental or theoretical works.
In Baconian terms, I have included works which proceed up to the level of Bacon's "first vintage" but not beyond. Robert Boyle's General Heads for the Natural History of a Country (#35), published (posthumously) in 1692, implicitly distinguishes the history from the philosophy of nature. His proposals demand that the traveler to foreign parts observe and record but not draw conclusions. Yet, because these observations followed Boyle's guidelines, they would not be random or naive.
Even the earliest observations of the New World were within a context. John Elliott has commented that the "innocent eye" existed rarely, if at all, among early travelers to the New World: "It was not the innocent, but the selective eye which first viewed America."2 The motives of early observers were many and complex. Explorers sought to glorify themselves and their sponsors; missionaries drew moral edification from the undreamed-of bounty of nature they found, as well as from the prospect of winning new souls. Their points of view, overwhelmingly Eurocentric, served to lessen the impact of the discovery of America on Europeans. Sixteenth-century cosmographies and travel accounts emphasized, in the words of a contemporary translator, Ccstraunge novelties and mervaillous thinges," and readers evidently found more marvels to the east than to the west, for works on the east far outnumbered those on the New World in this period.'
Such Eurocentrism strangely affected natural history, which, in this earliest period, was secondary to other pursuits. Travelers tended to see the Old World reflected in the New. William Cronon has noticed that early immigrants to New England believed it to be much more like old England than it actually was.' Many, even most, observers tended to identify New World plants and animals with those they already knew, even when the resemblance was slight. They repeated European myths about the behavior of certain animals and the effects of certain plants in the new context.5 Native Americans provided a never-ending source of wonder and moral edification, whether they were seen as noble or ignoble savages, or simply lower steps in the chain of being. Wilma George has argued that, although several New World plants and animals, were known from maps and travelers' accounts before 1550, only a few, and those the most unusual (the armadillo was a favorite), appeared in the standard encyclopaedic works of the time.' Konrad Gesner included only one American animal, the opossum, in his Historiae Animalium of 1551 (#122). Edward Topsell, who drew heavily from Gesner, described perhaps half-a-dozen New World animals in his History of Fourfooted Beasts, published fifty years later (#270). The great botanist Leonhard Fuchs included only three plants from the New World in his De Historia Stirpium of 1 542 (# 1 14), and he thought one of them, maize, was Asian.
Sixteenth-century cosmographies provide some of our earliest glimpses of European ideas of the natural history of the New World. These works, of which there are several examples in this bibliography, combined maps of the world with characteristically encyclopaedic commentaries which included natural history, civil history, cosmology, and ethnographic description. Maps themselves are important documents for natural history. Wilma George has pointed them out as a source of early animal illustration, and more generally, they graphically illustrate changing ideas of geography. Cartography had become steadily more sophisticated after the rediscovery by the West of Ptolemy's Geographia in the early fifteenth century. The intellectual distance between the stylized, schematic mappa mundi current in 1400 and the maps of Ortelius and Mercator in the late sixteenth century is vast.
The Italian commentator Peter Martyr (Pietro Martire d'Anghiera) was the first to suspect, in a letter of 1494, that Christopher Columbus had found not the East Indies but a new world. By 1524, the German cosmographer Peter Apianus represented America in his Cosmograpbicus Liber (#13). His map and accompanying commentary were later revised by his student Gemma Frisius, a mathematics professor at Louvain, whose students included Mercator. The Cosmographia of Apianus ran through at least thirteen Latin editions in the sixteenth century as well as several vernacular translations. Sebastian Munster's Cosmographey (#209) was equally popular. Perhaps the best example of this genre, however, was Abraham Ortelius's beautiful Theatrum Orbis Terrarum of 1570 (#214). In the commentary to his map of the New World, Ortelius attempted to reconcile information from several sources, including explorers' accounts and literary sources. He also recounts Plato's tale of Atlantis as a possible description of America.
Apart from cosmographies, the literature on the natural history of the Americas in the early modern period can be divided into two broad categories: travelers' accounts and catalogues or encyclopaedias. Toward the end of this period, these two types of literature often merge in the works of naturalists such as John Bartram and of scientific expeditions such as La Condamine's to South America. I have already indicated that travel literature has some flaws as a source of accurate observation and description of natural phenomena. Although John Elliott has found more freshness and directness in the accounts of seafaring men than in those of their academic counterparts, he admits that this freshness may be illusory, "overlaid by a layer of preconceptions. ,8 Margaret Hodgen claims that the urge to tell a good story predominated over other considerations: "[Travelers] dwelt above all on the hazardous episodes of their voyages, on their shipwrecks, battles with the savages, and near escapes with death. If, on occasion, descriptions of New World topography, flora, fauna, or people crept into their narratives, the strange and bizarre was emphasized at the expense of the prosaic and carefully examined."9 Self-aggrandizement and pressure from patrons led early explorers to claim that San Francisco Bay was the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake, the Pacific. La Salle drew a map of the course of the Mississippi River in 1682 which indicated that it curved toward the west and the gold of the Spanish Empire. The continued attempts to find a northwest passage during the eighteenth century provide a particularly vivid example of wishful thinking.10
Yet Hodgen's harsh judgment is not entirely fair, for surely it is human nature to prefer the strange to the prosaic. The accounts of La Salle's travels by his comrades Tonti (#269) and Joutel (#I 56) certainly detail many perils, alongside descriptions of the lands and people they encountered; but their lives were indeed perilous. Next to "travel liars" such as Louis Hennepin, who claimed to have canoed to the mouth of the Mississippi and back in two months (in #137), there are the reasoned and detailed accounts of his fellow clerics, Acosta (#6-7) and Charlevoix (#56-60). A few years before Philip Vincent told of his "battell" with the "Pequet Salvages" (#281), William Wood described New England in more peaceful, if perhaps idealized, detail in his New-England's Prospect (#287). We can hardly expect all travel literature of this period to be of equal quality, or to conform to our standards of truth. But among the many different texts we can strike a balance of some sort, and measure the meaning of America in this time.
Missionaries and clergymen were responsible for a great deal of travel literature. Indeed Daniel Mornet has observed that by the eighteenth century natural history was largely a "science ecclésiastique Although missionaries' descriptions of native peoples were, more often than not, highly colored by their Christian fervor, most clergymen were astute and intelligent observers, as well as zealous collectors of every kind of information. Even as polemical an account as that of Bartolomeo de las Casas (#48-50), who described the Spanish cruelties to native Mexicans in great detail, contains a wealth of information on many other topics. The English clergyman-naturalist, with whom we are familiar in Gilbert White, had his colonial counterparts in John Banister (#236), Griffith Hughes (#148) and William Smith (#258). The clergyman-polymath reached a peak of development in Cotton Mather (#192-193), and the French priests Barrelier (#16) and Plumier (#229-23 1) may be included among professional men of science.
By the end of the seventeenth century a new emphasis on natural history and on "scientific" observation begins to appear in travel literature. Scientific societies such as the Royal Society in Britain, founded in 1660, and the French Académie Royale des Sciences, founded in 1666, encouraged and promoted the study of nature. John Banister's letters from Virginia in the 1680s were published in the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions, and Boyle's General Heads had been preceded by a long series of "Questions for Travellers" in the same publication. As a result, such unlikely individuals as the former pirate William Dampier (#76-78) prided themselves on being men of science, and even voyages of primarily military objective such as Frazier's (# I 1 1 - 1 1 3) published accounts of their scientific observations. The dividing line between the amateur and the professional naturalist, never entirely clear, became increasingly fuzzy during the course of the eighteenth century.
In any case, the so-called professional naturalists, with a few exceptions, relied heavily upon travelers' accounts in compiling their encyclopaedic works. One exception was the Spanish physician Francisco Hemindez, who spent several years in Mexico in the 1 5 70s compiling a massive manuscript on New World materia medica, only a fraction of which was published (#139). Ironically, his better-known countryman Nicolas Monardes (#204), whose works were cited by many others, never visited the New World. The sixteenth-century encyclopaedists borrowed extensively from each other: Fuchs's identification of maize as "turcicum frumentum" was repeated by Dodoens (#89-91) and Lobel (#185). In such circumstances, erroneous information could survive unquestioned for several generations. Wilma George noted the 1605 illustration of a footless bird of paradise in the Exoticorum of L'Ecluse (#175), drawn from a poorly preserved specimen which had lost its feet in transit." The species survived as Linnaeus' Paradisea apodea.
Botany was the most prominent natural historical activity in the New World, and in the early modern period generally, for several reasons. Most plants were easily studied and transported, in contrast to animals. Renaissance naturalistic thought stressed the interconnectedness of the universe, and in this context plants could neatly symbolize nature as a whole. In addition, and perhaps most important for the New World, plants were useful. Botanicals dominated the materia medica, and Europeans welcomed new food plants: the potato, first illustrated in John Gerard's Herball in 1597 (#I 18) quickly became common in the European diet. Spices, dyestuffs and fibers, as well as ornamental plants, were also sought from the New World."
Although botany began to draw away from its medical origins in the late sixteenth century, most botanists were also physicians, and medicinal uses continued to be a compelling motive for the study of American plants. Tobacco, thought to be a cure-all, appears in virtually every herbal from the end of the sixteenth century onward. Guaiacum and sassafras were also highly regarded, the former as a specific for syphilis, another gift from the New World. Most prized, however, was the antimalarial cinchona bark from which quinine is derived. Known as "Peruvian" or "Jesuit's" bark, cinchona, discovered in the 1630s, was soon widely used in Europe against a variety of fevers.
The trickle of American plants which entered Europe in the sixteenth century steadily increased over the next two centuries. Gardens played a prominent role in this increase; indeed, the significance of European botanic and ornamental gardens for the increase of knowledge about New World botany would be difficult to overstate. Gesner's Zurich garden in the mid-sixteenth century was legendary, and his example in planting exotica was followed in Italy and then elsewhere. John Gerard was the first gardener to issue a complete catalogue (#119) of the contents of his London garden, which included several American plants. As historian Keith Thomas has recently shown, during the course of the seventeenth century gardening became an enormously popular and fashionable activity for all classes of society, and popular demand for exotic ornamental plants followed closely behind more scientific motives for plant-collecting in the Americas." Mark Catesby brought trees from the Carolinas and Florida to England in 1726; by 1730, specimens are listed for sale in the catalogue of the London Society of Gardeners (#202). On perhaps a more scientific level, several avid gardeners, including Peter Collinson, John Fothergill, and Lord Petre, financed John Bartram's botanizing in exchange for over 100 species of American plants. Hans Sloane, secretary and later president of the Royal Society, encouraged the donation of exotics to the physic gardens in Oxford and Chelsea, and himself contributed several West Indian varieties.
Thomas has also noted the great intellectual and spiritual significance of gardens in the early modern period. The very titles of such works as John Parkinson's Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris (#216, 218) illustrate "the idea that it would be possible to return to a state of pre-lapsarian grace by cultivation of the soil."" A further dimension of symbolism connected this notion to the cultivation and civilization of the New World. The garden as a metaphor for civilization-as opposed to the savagery of the wilderness-is prominent in the literature of the seventeenth century, and a professed goal of the early North American colonists was to make of the wilderness a garden. By classifying and bringing order to the wild productions of the New World, European gardens contributed to this end; and like other aspects of natural history, this was also an activity of religious significance, especially to the Puritan colonists. Cotton Mather found no conflict, but rather self-affirmation, in the title of "Christian philosopher," and he subtitled his book of that name, "a collection of the best discoveries in nature, with religious improvements" (#193). Frederick Jackson Turner later found in the frontier the source of American spiritual values, but in this period quite the opposite was true." In a famous essay, Lynn White found the origins of our notions of environmental exploitation in Judeo-Christian thought. Although specific aspects of his argument have been challenged, it is nonetheless true that taming the wilderness had, in this period, strong religious motivations."
Alongside the gardens were the herbaria, zoos and cabinets. Collection of exotic animals in zoos, although never as prominent an activity as gardening in this era, began around 1600. Konrad Gesner's house in Zurich was a prototype of the natural history cabinets of such collectors as Ole Worm (#288), John Tradescant, James Petiver (#224), and, best-known of all, Hans Sloane. Sloane's cabinet, which included the collections of Petiver and others, became the basis of the British Museum. His herbarium in Oxford contained specimens from several American correspondents, as well as several hundred specimens he had collected in the West Indies in the 1680s.
One result of this collecting fervor was a classifying fervor which 'Culminated in Linnaeus and was again primarily botanical, The early attempts at classification of Lobel and others reached an early peak in the work of Gaspard Bauhin (#21-22), whose binomial nomenclature, based on natural affinities, endured for much of the seventeenth century. By 1600, the New World and its productions were recognized to be indeed new, and in need of new categories of classification. just as the closed geocentric universe was being shattered by Copernicus and his followers, so too the notion of the Old World as a full, complete and interconnected universe was shown to be a myth. In consequence, the act of naming and the significance of language took on a different meaning. To the Renaissance mind, the act of naming had mystic significance, and conferred meaning in several interrelated ways. A name fit an object into an established framework of symbols and correspondences through which its true meaning, one not immediately evident upon observation, emerged. So Gesner's Historiae Animalium of 1551 is an "opus philosophis, medicis, grammaticis, philologis, poetis, & omnibus return linguarumque variarum studiosis, utilissimum simul iucundissimumque futurum."
By the end of the seventeenth century, as Michel Foucault has explained, words had largely lost their double significance of meaning and symbol. Descartes emphasized clear and distinct ideas and the importance of precise definition, on the model of mathematics. Words became, in Foucault's phrase, simply representative signs, flat and without resonance. Names could therefore be manipulated like numbers, and taxonomists such as John Ray (#236-237) sought to emulate the success of the mathematization of the physical sciences by introducing order and precision into the natural world. The result of such classification would be the discovery of general laws, which, for Ray and most of his contemporaries, would demonstrate the handiwork of God in the universe."
When the newness of the New World was recognized, its objects could not be fit into the symbolic pattern of the old. Observation of these objects needed to be non-symbolic, although this was only recognized very slowly. By the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, however, catalogues of American flora and fauna, based on direct observation, reflect a new mode of thought. In works of such people as Hans Sloane (#254-256) and Maria Sibylla Merian (#194), we find a new kind of natural history description, without accoutrements of symbol or use, which lent itself readily to classification.
If the New World changed European ideas of nature, the Europeans also changed that world drastically. Gilbert Chinard has commented that "America was considered ... as a country in which could be observed, under most favorable conditions, phenomena which belonged to the historical past of Europe and could not be reproduced at will."'9 But this world began to vanish as soon as Columbus set foot in the West Indies. Cronon has shown that this world was not entirely virgin, but it had not been systematically exploited by a technologically sophisticated people." At the turn of the seventeenth century, the poet John Donne called his mistress "My America! My new-found-land ... My Myne of precious stone, My Emperie. ,21 The metaphor of America as consort of Europe had a dark side. Carolyn Merchant has emphasized the vocabulary of rape and domination inherent in Baconian language. 22 As natural history was a Baconian enterprise of collecting, listing, and naming, so its governing philosophy was the Baconian quest for the domination of nature by man. Wilderness had no value in itself, and America was ripe for conquest and taming, for stripping of its riches. The natural history of the New World in this period is, therefore, a record of change and conquest, a catalogue of a vanished world.
This bibliography will, I hope, be of use as a research tool for several disciplines, including the history of science and medicine, literary studies, the history of culture and its social relations, anthropology, and Native American studies, as well as to historians of the Americas. The bibliography is arranged alphabetically by author; a given author's works are arranged chronologically. There are separate chronological and geographical indices at the end.
A Note on the Development of the APS Collections
The early history of the Library of the American Philosophical Society has been chronicled by its former associate librarian, Murphy Smith. 2' He notes that the collection was begun, and largely continued, by gifts from members and others, up to the appointment of John Vaughan as the first Librarian of the Society in 1803. Benjamin Franklin was particularly effective during these early years as a conduit for gifts. He left a portion of his own library to the Society in his will. Unfortunately, the remainder was auctioned off in the early years of the nineteenth century. The Society purchased several volumes at that time, making the APS Library the holder of the largest single group of books from Franklin's library; but much of the library was dispersed.' I have indicated volumes from Franklin's library in the bibliography.
During John Vaughan's long tenure as Librarian (until 1841), he, assisted by members of the Library Committee, particularly Peter S. Du Ponceau and George Ord, began to collect systematically in the areas the Library now recognizes as peculiarly its own, including science, technology, and linguistics. George Ord, who, among the many offices he held in the Society, served as Librarian from 1842-48, was particularly important in the development of the natural history collections. A naturalist in his own right, editor of Wilson and antagonist of Audubon, Ord's mark on these collections is still highly visible. 25
More recently, in 1972, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society chose the Library of the American Philosophical Society as a depository for its collection of rare volumes on botany and gardening. The richness of this collection is indicated in the annotations.
Key to Abbreviations
When a given work describes a specific geographical area or areas, these are noted in the citation by the abbreviations below. Where more than one region is listed, the order is that of the region's relative importance in the book. The geographical index located at the end of the bibliography allows the user to search for works concerning a given region.
|EC||East coast of North America|
|MA||Central America, including Mexico|
|MC||Middle colonies of North America, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland|
|MW||Old Northwest, Ohio Valley|
|NY||New York State|
|SE||Southeastern United States|
|WC||West coast of North America|
See also "Works Consulted in Compiling the Bibliography."
|DAB||Dictionary of American Biography. 20 vols. (1928-36).|
|DNB||Dictionary of National Biography. 22 vols. (reprinted 1967-68).|
|DSB||Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 16 vols. (1970-80).|
|Hunt||Rachel McMasters Miller Hunt, Catalogue of Botanical Books. Compiled by Jane Quinby. 2 vols. in 3. (Pittsburgh, 1958-61).|
|Masterson||James Masterson, "Travellers' Tales of Colonial Natural History," J. Am. Folklore, 59 (1946): 51-67,174-88.|
|NBU||Nouvelle Biographie Universelle. 46 vols. (I 8 52-66).|
|Sabin||Joseph Sabin et al., Bibliotheca Americana, from its Discovery to the Present Time. 29 vols. (New York, 1868-1936).|
|Smallwood||William and Mabel Smallwood, Natural History and the American Mind (New York, 1941).|