History of Science Museum: Collection Database Search


Physica Sacra, Johann Jakob Scheuchzer Inv. No. 14110

Inv. No. 14110 is a copperplate engraving taken from the 4 volume work Physica Sacra, by Johann Jakob Scheuchzer. The inner image in this engraving shows a variety of birds, such as a hoopoe and a cock. It is framed by a detailed illustration of the development of an avian foetus. Physica Sacra was highly notable for the baroque detail and quality of the copperplate engravings of subjects ranging from zoological (as here) to historical, geometrical, anatomical and other topics. It was first published in 1731 and went through number of subsequent editions before 1735. Scheuchzer was a Swiss physician and natural historian. Physica-Sacra is an example of an early encyclopedic work. Based around biblical scenes and stories, it was underpinned by a set of physico-theological ideas. Physico-theology sought to attribute the achievements of the scientific revolution to religious causes. Physica-Sacra contained novel ways of presenting information, as in this image, demonstrating the life-cycle of the animal.

Further reading: See Jonathan Sheehan, 'From Philology to Fossils: The Biblical Encyclopedia in Early Modern Europe', in Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 64, No. 1 (Jan., 2003), pp. 41-60

Related Objects: