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Amazing Rare Things: The Art of Natural History in the Age of Discovery

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  350 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
The Royal Collection, held at Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, and Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, has been shaped by the personal tastes of kings and queens for more than five hundred years. The Collection s exquisite natural history artworks in Amazing Rare Things is supplemented by an introduction and commentary from Sir David Attenborough. This exploration of the natural w ...more
Hardcover, 223 pages
Published September 29th 2015 by Yale University Press (first published January 1st 2007)
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Feb 22, 2010 skein rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 3-star
How do you rate a book that is mainly art - reproductions of former artists? If the art is good, does the rating go up? If the descriptions are inane, do you take away stars?

Yes, and yes: at least for this book. The author(s) apparently have a fetish for Leonardo da Vinci - and I could have been more graphic - he's the best artist evah blah blah blah when he is clearly not the best artist even within the pages of the book, if composition and quality of representation are the criteria (and what o
Jun 11, 2017 Edith rated it really liked it
Beautifully illustrated volume of color plates, created by 17th c. artists, natural scientists, and collectors, belonging to Britain's Royal Collection. Edited by David Attenborough, with essays on each of the artists. An evocative look at a period in which interest in and knowledge of the world around us was expanding very rapidly. Highly recommended.
I came across this at the library and picked it up as a companion piece to Wonders and the Order of Nature. It has a ton of great illustrations and brief biographies from some major early natural history artists. A lot of the stories parallel the development from random curiosities to scientific observation by way of collections made for wealthy patrons. Wonders mostly covers physical collections like the Wunderkammern, while this book is of course on painted collections. The biographies don't h ...more
Dec 05, 2011 Amy rated it really liked it
Shelves: project_2012
The illustrations in this book are fantastic and the content by Attenborough is great. The introduction provides some interesting context on how art has informed biology and how biology has informed art (at least, this is what the introduction made me think about). The illustration notes impart interesting tidbits about some of the animals and plants illustrated in the plates, as well as what the artists got right . . . and what they may have embellished.

The rest of the text is less inspiring,
Glorious. This book explores the images from natural history records and looks at them as a form of art. I have always considered the incredible drawings of plants and animals from this era as art, and I was excited to see them examined this way by some of the masters in the field.
The writing is straightforward but thorough. Though the sections are written by different people, there is an overall sense of being pulled into the world of discovery and allowed to spend some time marvelling there.
Jan 13, 2011 Lana. rated it liked it
A quick flip through the book caught my interest when I recognised some of the pictures (or at least the style) – as note card favourites. Turns out these cherished images have a lot of history, and played quite a role in naturalist science. I borrowed the book from the library and began reading.

The book consists of informative and concise essays along with beautiful reproductions if watercolours and drawings – all which work to introduce the reader to natural art and the naturalist artists who
Jan 14, 2010 Kate rated it it was amazing
I was delighted to discover that the work of Maria Sibylla Merian was included in this book, along with that of Alexander Marshall. They were both amazing botanical artists. The work of Leonardo da Vinci is also featured as is that of Mark Catesby (loved the Sarracenia purpurea with frog). A wonderful discovery, too, was the paper museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo. This is a book I would enjoy owning ~ I hated having to return it to the library.
Feb 02, 2009 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: art and science lovers
This book is exquisite. It covers aspects of history I had never before even considered. It is bursting with information and, even better, gorgeous illustrations. The segments on the different artist/naturalists were all fascinating, but the chapter on Maria Sibylla Merian was my favorite. She pretty much rocked in a time when it was difficult for women to do so. And she draws a mean Australian cockroach.
Apr 23, 2015 Eling rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
I know some find this oddly organized or not to their expectations, but it is in fact not a reference book nor a natural history book. It is more about the art and the artists behind earlier natural history discoveries and illustrations. Really interesting and full of great illustrations, details and tidbits. Great for anyone interested in this type of artwork, or the history of scientific illustration. I really enjoyed it and bought it for my own collection.
Sep 30, 2008 fletch marked it as to-read
Recommends it for: kate townsend, for david attenborough; malic, cause he'd love the colors
Beautiful illustrations with vibrant color - looking at the pictures is pleasurable enough, although I'm also interested in reading the authors' analysis as well. After seeing the Egyptology exhibit at the Frye, I've been thinking about the ways that artists, scholars and scientists, when put to the task of documenting the "exotic," easily become effective tools of colonialist expansion.
Danielle T
Sep 09, 2013 Danielle T rated it it was amazing
Shelves: natural-history
Grad school suddenly cut in on recreational reading, so it took considerably longer to finish things I started late summer. David Attenborough does the introduction and a couple pages per chapter, but there's another 3 authors that cover the various artists. Absolutely gorgeous book; early scientific plates are works of art.
Mar 16, 2008 Lorna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: art historians and light nature interests
Good pics and occasionally interesting text. I think this was a Christmas impulse publication with a pretty cover and a extra-wide spaced blurb by Attenborough. The pics could be more numerous and it's too small to be a good coffee table book. Better to read Chrysalis or look at Cabinet of Curiosities.
Apr 03, 2010 Kaye rated it really liked it
David Attenborough explores the Royal Library at Windsor. The reproductions are beautiful. How nice to find Maria Sibylla Merian as one of the featured artists, along with Leonardo da VInci, Mark Catesby, and Alexander Marshall. And the paper museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo was a wonderful discovery. My problem now is deciding if this book gets shelved with natural history books or with art books.
Feb 27, 2013 Maria rated it liked it
This book is a series of very short essays about various classical (pre-modern-art) artists working in the subject of natural history. It reads like an exhibition catalogue, so don't expect anything incredibly profound, but it gave me some good insights about new artists to check out and new ways to think about people whose work I already knew.
Mar 17, 2014 Debs rated it it was ok
This book has got beautiful illustration pictures. However, it's about art and one of the chapters was Da Vinci's work. The topic of this book was not interested me as I flicked through the pages to see the illustrations. Or may be I was too tired reading Engineering and Maths study books.
Sep 23, 2007 Meredith rated it really liked it
I just saw this book at 192 Books in Chelsea. It's a compilation of essays with beautifully reproduced color drawings of nature, some even by Da Vinci. It's a good coffee table book, but also one to read in small bits.
Mar 07, 2016 Bevan rated it it was amazing
Published by Yale, this is a beautifully produced book, full of unusual and unusually splendid illustrations by artists from Leonardo to Audubon, of animals and plants depicted and studied during the Age of Discovery.
Feb 23, 2010 Alex rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009, biology
David Attenborough geeking out over Da Vinci sketches. If that doesn't sound awesome to you, neither do I.
Ellen Johnson
Jul 02, 2016 Ellen Johnson rated it really liked it
Shelves: art-and-design
what a beautiful book even if the text of most essays was quite dull.
Kris McCracken
Sep 13, 2015 Kris McCracken rated it liked it
A series of essays about five pioneering scientific illustrators, accompanied by a lovely set of reprints in large scale of their work. A beautiful example of its type.
Raphael Rosen
Dec 02, 2008 Raphael Rosen rated it really liked it
I loved this book. The illustrations were beautiful, and David Attenborough's introduction was especially good. I recommend _Amazing Rare Things_ wholeheartedly!
May 14, 2010 Katherine rated it really liked it
What a fascinating topic! Although the text wasn't terribly in-depth, I loved the stunning visuals captioned with David Attenborough's snarky comments on scientific accuracy.
Yuki Shimmyo
Beautiful integration of art and science. Lush illustrations of flora and fauna.
Feb 18, 2010 Snafoo is currently reading it
Found this book through goodreads. Placed an order immediately.
May 31, 2008 Marissa rated it liked it
This book got me all excited about the magic combo of art + nature. I only wish it were longer.
Marts  (Thinker)
In Amazing Rare Things:... David Attenborough explores the works of five natural history artists.....
Apr 01, 2016 Nicole rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
An interesting look at a small collection of people who created interesting and artistic depictions of natural life in the 1500s and 1600s. It was a pleasure to flip through this book.
Birch Wold
Birch Wold rated it really liked it
Apr 07, 2013
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Sir David Frederick Attenborough is a naturalist and broadcaster, who is most well-known for writing and presenting the nine "Life" series, produced in conjunction with BBC's Natural History Unit. The series includes Life on Earth (1979), The Living Planet (1984), The Trials of Life (1990), Life in the Freezer (about Antarctica; 1993), The Private Life of Plants (1995), The Life of Birds (1998), T ...more
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