Collections and Icono-Textual Media at the Service of Collective Empiricism: Paolo Boccone’s Travel in England in 1673

Floriana Giallombardo (Palermo)

In the last decades of the Seventeenth Century the Royal Society and the Italian scientific community shared their concern about the epistemic effectiveness of different media in communicating observational experience. In this context the italian naturalist and traveller Paolo Boccone is a key figure, promoting the circulation of specimens, textual reports,printed and manuscript images, among his long-distance network of scientific correspondents. As part of his journey in Northern Europe, Boccone visited London and in 1673 he took part to the meetings of the Royal Society, donating them a cabinet of curiosities on which he had conducted many observations. The following year he published in Oxford Icones et descriptiones rariorum plantarum, edited by the botanist Robert Morison who reviewed the tables. The publication is a significant case of collaborative work, which shows the contrast between the uneven accuracy of the botanical illustrations based on Boccone’s dried herbal and the sophisticated printing techique in multiple register. This higly refined technique creates a coherent framework that improves the effectiveness of the illustrated book as an icono-textual device  at the service of collective empiricism.

Paolo Boccone ‘Icones & descriptiones rariorum plantarum Siciliae’. Melitae, Galliae, & Italiae, Oxford: e theatro Sheldoniano, 1674
Paolo Boccone ‘Icones & descriptiones rariorum plantarum Siciliae’. Melitae, Galliae, & Italiae, Oxford: e theatro Sheldoniano, 1674.


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