Level 3 Mortlock Wing State Library of South Australia North Terrace Adelaide SA 5000

Pliny the Elder AD 23-79; The historie of the world

Commonly called the Natvrall historie of C. Plinivs Secvndvs; Plinies naturall historie. 1601; Uniform Title: Naturalis historia. English. 1601; Translated into English by Holland, Philemon 1552-1637; this extremely old and rare publication was published in 1603.

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Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus) was a celebrated Roman author and authority on scientific matters. His work was copied over the centuries and among the first books to be printed in Italy. His work was highly influential right up until the Renaissance.

Pliny held various military and administrative positions. He was a compulsive notetaker, reader and researcher. He died while investigating the volcanic eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD.

Pliny’s best known work and the only one preserved in its entirety is Naturalis Historia. Completed in 77 AD. It is considered the first encyclopaedia from antiquity.

Philemon Holland translated the Latin tome into English for the first time in 1601. It consists of a compilation of 20,000 noteworthy facts as well as myths covering every aspect of the world as known in Rome in the 1st Century AD. Philemon Holland was born in Essex 1552 and was an English schoolmaster and physician who combined teaching and medical practice with translation of classical works.

RGSSA catalogue number rgsp 500 P728 c- located in the glass case.

Note : The RGSSA has two editions of Pliny's Natural History - the 1601 edition is part of the York Gate Library and the 1634-35 edition is part of the Benham Collection.

Pliny’s Natural History offers a fascinating vision of the known world 2,000 years ago covering subjects from Cosmology, Astronomy, Geography, Ethnography, Zoology, Botany, Medicine and Mineralogy to various superstitions of his time.  Pliny pondered such questions as:

  • “Whether the world be finite and limited within certain dimensions or not? Whether there be many, or but one?”

  • “The dimensions of the earth as well as length as in breadth.”

  • “Prognostications of things to come, taken from beasts.”

  • “The monstrous beasts of the Indian Sea. Whether fishes do take and deliver their breath. Whether they sleep or not?”

  • “Whether of the marrow of a mans broke bone a serpent will engender