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Amazing Rare Things: 

The Art of Natural History in 

the Age of Discovery

SIR DAVID Attenborough 

Susan Owens, Martin Clayton, and

Rea Alexandratos

Published in association with The Royal Collection


$24.95 trade paper with French flaps
ISBN 978-0-9798456-2-8
7⅝ x 9⅞ inches
160 full color drawings and watercolors
224 pages / NATURE, natural history, art, Leonardo da Vinci

From the fifteenth century onwards, as European explorers sailed forth on grand voyages of discovery, their encounters with exotic plants and animals fanned intense scientific interest. Scholars began to examine nature with fresh eyes, and pioneering artists transformed the way nature was seen and understood. In AMAZING RARE THINGS, renowned naturalist and documentary-maker Sir David Attenborough joins with expert colleagues to explore how artists chose to portray the natural world during this era of burgeoning scientific interest.

The book focuses on an exquisite selection of natural history drawings and watercolors by Leonardo da Vinci, Alexander Marshal, Maria Sibylla Merian, and Mark Catesby and from the collection of Cassiano dal Pozzo. These works—all held in The Royal Library at Windsor Castle—reflect each artist’s extraordinary engagement with the natural world. Sir David Attenborough and his coauthors offer lucid and thought-provoking commentary on such topics as:

•  The history of the human desire to illustrate the natural world,              beginning 30,000 years ago
•  Leonardo’s fascination with natural processes and the overarching  laws of nature
•  Dal Pozzo’s encyclopedic "Paper Museum" of the natural world and the significance of his empirical investigations
•  Marshal’s landmark illustrations of rare plants and flowers that were     newly imported from the Near East and the New World and grown in     English gardens
•  Merian’s pioneering depictions of the life cycles of insects in the Dutch colony of Surinam in South America
•  Catesby’s comprehensive life’s work, two volumes that introduced Europe to the plants and animals of North America

SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH’s distinguished career in broadcasting spans more than fifty years. A pioneer of the nature documentary, he has written and presented nine major television series on virtually every aspect of life on Earth, including most recently Planet Earth. He was knighted in 1985, was created a member of the Order of Merit in 2005, and has received many other awards and honorary degrees.

SUSAN OWENS is assistant curator of the Print Room at Windsor Castle. She curated the recent exhibit Watercolours and Drawings from the Collection of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

MARTIN CLAYTON is deputy curator of the Print Room at Windsor Castle. He has published extensively on Renaissance art.

REA ALEXANDRATOS is coordinator of the Dal Pozzo Catalogue Project.


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