De Corporibus Marinis…. Agostino SCILLA.
De Corporibus Marinis…
De Corporibus Marinis…
De Corporibus Marinis…
De Corporibus Marinis…
De Corporibus Marinis…

De Corporibus Marinis…
De Corporibus Marinis…

Rome: Joannis Zempel, 1759.

Quarto, frontispiece and 30 engraved plates; mid-nineteenth century half calf; gilt lettering.

Are fossils mere 'tricks of nature'?

Early treatise on the formation of fossils from plants and animals that once lived, thereby rejecting existing notions that fossils were miraculously derived or mere 'tricks of nature'. Most of the examples in the present work are marine, including ancient shark teeth and coral formations.

Early treatise on the formation of fossils from plants and animals that once lived, thereby rejecting existing notions that fossils were miraculously derived or mere 'tricks of nature'. Most of the examples in the present work are marine, including ancient shark teeth and coral formations.
Agostino Scilla (1629-1700) was an established artist with a keen interest in geology and collecting. He applied a rigorous approach to his studies, rejecting the notion that fossils were 'tricks of nature' formed by plastic geological processes under the direction of God or 'Nature' (an ambiguous generative entity derived from classical philosophy). By showing that fossils were neither random nor miraculous Scilla established the possibility that life on earth was very old and subject to change. In this respect De Corporibus Marinis provided evidence against the biblical model of creation without openly challenging the religious conventions of the seventeenth-century (indeed, many of Scilla's commissions as a professional artist came from the Church).
Scilla's work was influential and widely disseminated: Liebniz met him in Rome in 1689, and was affected by his theories on the organic formation of fossil forms (although Liebniz never entirely departed from the 'tricks of nature' hypothesis). By the 1720s, belief in the organic origin of fossils had gained widespread acceptance amongst enlightenment intellectuals, and in this environment this lavish posthumous edition was published.
Scilla's dual training as an artist led him to present much of his evidence visually, so his readers would be convinced by evidence rather than speculation and conjecture. For instance, amongst the 30 plates the reader can compare fossilised teeth with those of living sharks, and other forms compared with living marine invertebrates.

Price (AUD): $1,925.00  other currencies     Ref: #4211249

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