Skip to main content

Renaissance science

The Renaissance was a time when European intellectuals began to re-examine the world around them, inspired by discoveries made by explorers traveling to previously undescribed parts of the world and the writings of classical scholars that were becoming more accessible. Their efforts were aided by the rapid growth of cheaper books, which movable type made possible. Enterprising men, and a few women, throughout continental Europe brought out new editions and translations of classical authors, such as Plautus, Ptolemy Herodotus, and Euclid. They also published the writings of contemporary scholars, such as Giovanni Ramusio (on geography), Lorenzo Valla (grammar), Lucas Pacioli (mathematics) and Niccolò Tartaglia (mechanics).

This collection includes a selection of important herbals, mathematical writings and geographies from circa 1540 to circa 1680. Among these are Den nieuwen herbarius by Leonard Fuchs (1543); De stirpium by Hieronymus Bock (1552); The anatomy of plants by Nehemiah Grew (1682); Nova scientia by Niccolò Tartaglia (1537); and the first translation of Euclid's Elementa made directly from the Greek (1505).

In addition, the Rare Book Collection at Mount Holyoke College has examples of titles from one of the most prolific of these early publishing houses, the house of Aldine, founded by Aldus Manutius (d. 1515), and from many of its competitors.

Selected bibliographies from the collection of Renaissance books are available below. They are arranged by discipline and cover astronomy and mathematics; botany and medicine; and geography.