Aldrovandus, Ulysses

, one of the most laborious naturalists of the sixteenth century, and professor at Bologna, was born in 1527, of a noble family in that city, which still exists. He employed the greater part of his long life, and all his fortune, in travelling into the most distant countries, and collecting every thing curious in their natural productions. Minerals, metals, plants, and animals, were the objects of his curious researches; but he applied himself chiefly to birds, and was at great expence in having figures of them drawn from the life. Aubert le Mire says, that he gave a certain painter, famous in that art, a yearly salary of 200 crowns, for 30 years and upwards; and that he employed at his own expence Lorenzo Bennini and Cornelius Swintus, as well as the famous engraver Christopher Coriolanus. These expences ruined his fortune, and at length reduced him to the utmost necessity; and it is said that he died blind in an hospital at Bologna, May 4, 1605. Mr. Bayle observes, that antiquity does not furnish us with an instance of a design so extensive and so laborious as that of Aldrovandus, with regard to natural history; that Pliny indeed has treated of more subjects, but only touches them lightly, whereas Aldrovandus has collected all he could find.

His compilation, or, what at least was compiled upon his plan, consists of several volumes in folio, some of which were printed after his death. He himself published his Ornithology, or History of Birds, in three folio volumes, in 1599; and his seven books of Insects, which make another volume of the same size. The volume of Serpents, three of Quadrupeds, one of Fishes, that of exsanguineous Animals, the history of Monsters, with the Supplement to that of Animals, the treatise on Metals, and the Dendrology, or History of Trees, were published at several times after his death, by the care of different persons.

The volume “of Serpents” was put in order, and sent to the press by Bartholomseus Ambrosinus; that “of Quadrupeds which divide the Hoof” was first digested by John Cornelius Uterverius, and afterwards by Thomas Dempster, and published by Marcus Antouius Bernia and Jerome Tamburini; that of “Quadrupeds which do not divide the Hoof,” and that “of Fishes,” were digested by Uterverius, and published by Tamburini; that “of Quadrupeds with Toes or Claws,” was compiled by Ambrosinus j the “History of Monsters,” and the | Supplements, were collected by the same author, and published at the charge of Marcus Antonius Bernia; the “Dendrology” is the work of Ovidius Montalbanus. “Aldrovandus,” says l’abbé Gallois, “is not the author of several books published under his name; but it has happened to the collection of natural history, of Which those books are part, as it does to those great rivers which retain during their whole course the name they bore at their first rise, though in the end the greatest part of the water which they carry into the sea does not belong to them, but to other rivers which they receive: for as the first six volumes of this great work were by Aldrovandus, although the others were composed since his death by different authors, they have still been attributed to him, either because they were a continuance of his design, or because the writers of them used his memoirs, or because his method was followed, or perhaps that these last volumes might be the better received under so celebrated a name.” All the above-mentioned volumes were reprinted at Francfort, but it is difficult to procure them all of the same edition. Those on the minerals are more scarce than the others, and the volume which contains the monsters should have also the supplement to the history of animals, which is wanting in most copies. Aldrovandus has been considered by modern naturalists as an enormous compiler without taste or genius, and much of his plan and materials is borrowed from Gessner. Buffon says, with justice, that his works might be reduced to a tenth part, if all that is useless and superfluous were expunged. When, adds that eminent naturalist, Aldrovandi treats of the natural history of the cock or the ox, he gives you all that has been said of cocks and oxen; all that the ancients have thought, all that can be imagined of their virtues, their character, their courage, and their employments; all the stories which good women have told, all the miracles performed by them in certain religions, all the subjects of superstition which they have furnished, all the comparisons which the poets have given, all the attributes which certain nations have discovered in them, all the hieroglyphics in which they have been represented, all the armorial bearings in which they are seen; in a word, every history and every fable that has been related of cocks and oxen. Buffon, however, allows that if he is redundant, he is exact in important | points; and in his works are unquestionably many curious accounts not easily to be found elsewhere. 1


Gen. Dict.—Moreri.—Tiraboschi.—Biog. Universelle.—Clarke’s Bibliographical Dictionary.—Boerhaáve’s Methodus disecendi medicinam.—Haller BiblBotan.—Saxii Onomasticon.—Journal des Seavans, Nov. 12, 1668.