Skiplink Navigation

Main Features

All creatures great and small Rhinos, blackbirds and sea monks

Conrad Gessner’s 16th century masterpiece, Historia animalium, catalogued all the animals that were known at the time. March marks the 500th anniversary of the Swiss scholar's birth.

The encyclopaedia of more than 1,000 animals in words and pictures came at a time when zoology was in its infancy. It had a major influence on people’s understanding of the science up until the 18th century.

In this work, Gessner described the animals’ habitat, behaviour, and physiology, as well as their vices and virtues – from the busy bee to the selfless pelican. He also described how animals were of use to humans.

He included animals familiar to him, as well as more exotic creatures, such as those from the New World, which had only recently been discovered.

And the sea monk? Even mythical beasts made it into the encyclopaedia. Ultimately, Gessner was unsure about the existence of all of the animals he included in his epic tome.

Text: Isobel Leybold-Johnson, picture editor: Christoph Balsiger

Neuer Inhalt

Horizontal Line

SWI on Instagram

SWI on Instagram

SWI on Instagram

subscription form

Form for signing up for free newsletter.

Sign up for our free newsletters and get the top stories delivered to your inbox.

Click here to see more newsletters