Flip Through More than 5,000 Pages of This Sprawling 19th-Century Atlas of Natural History

an 18th-century natural history book illustration of numerous long-legged birds

Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library

In the early 19th century, German naturalist Lorenz Oken quickly established himself as a leader in the Naturphilosophie movement, a current of Idealism, which attempted to comprehend a total view of nature by investigating its theoretical structure—a precursor to the natural sciences as we know them today.

Oken’s seminal work Allgemaine Naturgeschichte Für Alle Stände, or General Natural History For All Classes, was published as a series of seven volumes between 1833 and 1843. At more than 5,000 pages in its entirety, the atlas depicts known species ranging from beetles and fish to birds and ferns. In many cases, insects or plants are shown in various stages of development, like a butterfly displayed alongside its larval and pupal forms.

Containing illustrations engraved and printed by a number of contributors, the vivid portrayal of wildlife and botanicals attempts to classify similar specimens, labeling them with both their common and scientific names and grouping like examples into compartments.

Explore Oken’s entire Allgemaine Naturgeschichte in the Biodiversity Heritage Library’s digital archive, where you can also download tens of thousands individual illustrations. You may also enjoy flipping through an eclectic array of rare Japanese schoolbooks,  admiring Elizabeth Gould’s detailed bird illustrations.

an 18th-century natural history book illustration of eels

an 18th-century natural history book illustration of moths, some shown at their larval and pupae stages

an 18th-century natural history book illustration of numerous beetles, organized by size and color into classifications in a chart

an 18th-century natural history book illustration of winged insects, classified into a grid

an 18th-century natural history book illustration of butterflies, some shown at their larval and pupae stages

an 18th-century natural history book illustration of numerous plants and botanicals categorized on the page into a grid

an 18th-century natural history book illustration of ferns, categorized on the page into a grid showing their seeds and different stages of growth

an 18th-century natural history book illustration of mushrooms

an 18th-century natural history book illustration of bird eggs and nests

an 18th-century natural history book illustration of bird eggs and nests

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