The Art of Science: The Rediscovery of the Lister Copperplates

(Lecture, 19 September 2012)

Anna Marie Roos, author of “Web of nature: Martin Lister 1639-1712), the first arachnologist”  introduced the copperplates, shells, drawing and printed pictures in the Bodleian Library’s temporary display of material from the library and personal papers of Martin Lister (1639-1712).

This display took advantage of Lister’s bequest to the University of Oxford of over 1000 copper plates made to illustrate his great work on conchology — the study of molluscs — printed privately during the 1680s and 1690s. The original copper plates, from which the printed illustrations were made, are now kept in the Bodleian Library, Department of Special Collections.

Lister’s own attention to the classification and dissection of molluscs made this a widely respected work which, much later, Charles Darwin still consulted. The success was not Martin Lister’s alone, for the illustrations were made by his daughters, who drew the shells and dissected specimens and engraved the copper plates for this work, an example of women’s contribution to scientific knowledge during the age of the scientific revolution.

The pattern of Lister’s correspondence, some of which is also in the Bodleian Library, is shown here in the beta version of “Early Modern Letters Online”