Realistic Science — Teylers Museum

Realistic Science

Models and illustrations for the life sciences in the Book Cabinet

Jan 21, 2023 to Jul 16, 2023

The exhibition Realistic Science in the Book Cabinet links up with Surreal Science in the Exhibition Room. Realistic Science shows why scientific models and illustrations were so important to research and education in the 19th and early 20th centuries, on the basis of books from the historical library of Teylers Museum.

Before photography, scans and computer techniques, scientific illustrations and teaching models were indispensable to researchers and students. A fish or a frog had to be disposed of after dissection, human bodies were difficult to obtain and dried flowers would lose their colour. A papier mâché model, a good illustration or a picture with explanation offered a solution. 

From the eighteenth century onwards, such models and illustrations became more and more accurate and refined. This resulted in a marriage, as it were, of art and science. It was above all in the life sciences, like biology, physiology and medicine, where scientific models and illustrations became genuine works of art. 

The books on display are from the natural history library of Teylers Museum. With thanks to the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center for objects provided on loan.

Image: J.V. Krombholz, Naturgetreue Abbildungen und Beschreibungen der essbaren, schädlichen und verdächtigen Schwämme (1831-1846)