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The Paper Zoo traces the varied and vital role of natural history illustration in science and art since the fifteenth century. Sumptuous images from giants of the genre – such as the birds of John J. Audubon, or the insects of Maria Sybilla Merian – accompany less familiar but equally intriguing illustrations from manuscripts, journals, and rare printed books. Together, these works represent a collection of nature’s wonders. Birds, butterflies, insects, mammals, reptiles, and fish were immortalised in print; pests and curiosities were wondered at; microorganisms made monsters.
Travellers brought home, on paper, exotic creatures. Scholars and hobbyists insisted upon the beauty and significance of native creatures, both wild and domesticated – even cows and clothes moths.