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Ricreatione Dell'occhio E Della Mente Nell'Osservation' delle Chiocciole, Proposa a' Curiosi delle Opere della Natura or A Cabinet of Curiosities

This first edition shell engraving is from Filippo Buonanni’s Ricreatione Dell’occhio E Della Mente Nell’Osservation’ delle Chiocciole, Proposa a’ Curiosi delle Opere della Natura or A Cabinet of Curiosities. The work was published in Rome by Varese in 1681. The work is noted as being the first publication strictly featuring mollusks.

“Filippo Buonanni, (born Rome, Italy, 7 January 1638; died 30 March 1725), natural sciences. Buonanni, one of the most learned Jesuits of his time, was a pupil of Athanasius Kircher, and in 1680 succeeded his master as teacher of mathematics at the Collegium Romanum; in 1698, he was appointed curator of the Kircherian Museum, which he described in his “Museum Collegii Romani Kircherianum (1709)”…..Erudite in a number of fields, including numismatics and ecclesiastical history (writing on both subjects), Buonanni made extensive studies in the natural sciences; he constructed his own microscope with three lenses (according to Tortona’s system), which proved to be an ingenious mechanism for continual observation. In his Ricreazione dell’ochio e della mente nell’observazione della chiocciole (1681), a work valuable for its many illustrations of shells, he explicitly affirmed his belief in the spontaneous generation of mollusks and rekindled the controversy over generation that had flared in 1671 between Kircher and Francesco Redi. Buonanni’s position was anachronistic, since the Aristotleian theory of spontaneous generation had been disproved by Redi in his Esperienze intorno all generazione degli insetti (1668) and by Marcello Malpighi, who had demonstrated the pathogenesis of oak galls from the development of fertilized insect eggs in his Anatome plantarum (1679)…..He based his belief in the spontaneous generation of mollusks partly on the authority of Aristotle and Kircher and partly on a report by Camillo Picchi of Ancona…he was convinced, as he stated in his Ricreazione, that the mollusks had no hearts. If this were so, they had no blood; Aristotle had written that no bloodless animal is oviparous, and that “all conches are generated spontaneously by the mud – oysters by dirty mud, the others by sandy mud”. Convinced that the conches were heartless and bloodless, Buonanni believed that both observation and authority supported the idea of spontaneous generation.” – Dictionary of Scientific Biography page 591.

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