Article ID: CBB001552301

Assembling the Dodo in Early Modern Natural History (2015)


This paper explores the assimilation of the flightless dodo into early modern natural history. The dodo was first described by Dutch sailors landing on Mauritius in 1598, and became extinct in the 1680s or 1690s. Despite this brief period of encounter, the bird was a popular subject in natural-history works and a range of other genres. The dodo will be used here as a counterexample to the historical narratives of taxonomic crisis and abrupt shifts in natural history caused by exotic creatures coming to Europe. Though this bird had a bizarre form, early modern naturalists integrated the dodo and other flightless birds through several levels of conceptual categorization, including the geographical, morphological and symbolic. Naturalists such as Charles L'Ecluse produced a set of typical descriptive tropes that helped make up the European dodo. These long-lived images were used for a variety of symbolic purposes, demonstrated by the depiction of the Dutch East India enterprise in Willem Piso's 1658 publication. The case of the dodo shows that, far from there being a dramatic shift away from emblematics in the seventeenth century, the implicit symbolic roles attributed to exotic beasts by naturalists constructing them from scant information and specimens remained integral to natural history.

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Authors & Contributors
Boscani Leoni, Simona
Hume, J. P.
Cheke, A. S.
Valledor de Lozoya, Arturo
Hengst, Jan Den
Eisenbichler, Konrad
Archives of Natural History
Journal of the History of Collections
Cuadernos Dieciochistas: revista consagrada al estudio de la historia, el pensamiento, la literatura, el arte y la ciencia del siglo XVIII
Renaissance Studies
Eighteenth-Century Life
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies
University of Chicago Press
Éd. du CTHS
Natural history
Travel; exploration
Scientific expeditions
Science and art
Ray, John
Savery, Roelandt
Lamotius, Isaac Johannes
Kepler, Johannes
Ashmole, Elias
Mutis, José Celestino
Time Periods
17th century
18th century
19th century
16th century
Latin America

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