Background

Clusius by Jacob de Monte, 1585. UBL, PK Icones Leidensis 19.

Clusius and friends making natural history

Carolus Clusius (1526-1609) was a Flemish scholar who specialized in the upcoming field of natural history. He is most famous for describing hundreds of new plant species and constructing the botanical garden for the University of Leiden in 1594. Many of his publications can be consulted in digital form on the website of the Missouri Botanical Garden Library.

Attention for the network of people around a well-known scholar such as Clusius can offer a different perspective on the development of scientific knowledge. Clusius collaborated with hundreds of people from different social and intellectual backgrounds to study the natural world of Europe and beyond. Their exchange of letters, illustrations, specimens, descriptions and experiences offers a fascinating view on the development of natural history into a separate field of knowledge in the late sixteenth century. The Clusius Research Project, which ran from 2004 until 2011 at the University of Leiden, studied these exchanges extensively. The results were published in:

However, many findings of the Clusius project did not find their way into publication. This was the reason for Huygens ING and Scaliger Institute to join forces in the presentation of Clusius’s correspondence and his network online.