UCB Libraries

Past Exhibit


Systematic Wonder poster with print of a plant




Systematic Wonder:

Science Observed Through Rare, Historic, and Artistic Works


On display June 7, 2013 – August 26, 2013

in the Special Collections Reading Room, Norlin N345.
Thursdays and Fridays, 1 - 5 pm and by appointment.

Free and open to the public. For more information call 303-492-6144.


Printable exhibit bibliography available here.


  • Astronomy
  • Anatomy
  • Climate
  • Physics
  • Evolution
  • Botany
  • Insects





Charles Hobson. Fresnel's Tower: Why Lighthouses are like Stars. 1997.


Sabina U. Nies. The Whole Universe. 2008.


Galileo Galilei. Sidereus Nuncius: a Reproduction of the Copy in the British Library.  [1610.]


Astrolabe Replica Hemispherium.  

The astrolabe, or inclinometer, measures the angle of slope, depression, or elevation of an object in respect to gravity. Invented in 150 BC, the astrolabe was used by astronomers, navigators, and astrologers to locate and predict the positions of the Sun, Moon, and planets. It was also used for surveying, telling local times (using latitude), and casting horoscopes.

Royal Society (Great Britain).  Correspondence Concerning the Great Melbourne Telescope: In Three Parts: 1852-1870.


Elijah H. Burritt. The Geography of the Heavens and Class Book of Astronomy: Accompanied by a Celestial Atlas.1846.


Robert S. Ball. An Atlas of Astronomy: a Series of Seventy-Two Plates, with Introduction and Index. 1892.


Joannes de Sacrobosco. Sphaera Mundi; or On the Sphere of the World or Iohannis de Sacro Busto Libellus de Sphaera: Accessit Eiusdem Autoris Computus Ecclesiasticus, et alia Quaedam, in Studiosorum Gratiam Edita. 1574.

Sacrobosco’s textbook (c. 1213) on the universe - which he called the "machine mundi," the machine of the world - is a medieval introduction to the basic elements of astronomy. Based on Ptolemy’s Almagest, this book was used in universities for hundreds of years. The manuscript was copied many times before the invention of the printing press.


Anatomy & Health



Charles Denison. Exercise and Food for Pulmonary Invalids. 1895.


Chicago Tuberculosis Institute Poster. circa 1925.


R.D. Burton. Dexterity Walking Man. 2008.


Edward Jenner. An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae. [1798.] Facsimile reprint, 1923.


Physicians' Anatomical Aid. 1888.


The Boulder-Colorado Sanitarium, Boulder, Colorado. [192?].

John Harvey Kellogg of cereal fame started a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan. It was so successful that, on the advice of a patient, he opened another one right here in Boulder. The sanitarium was established at the foot of the Rockies in 1895 to treat TB, cancer, and other chronic ailments, as well as to provide surgical and obstetrical care in a pleasant “vacation” setting. Robert Frost’s daughter was there for TB treatment.

Sarah Bryant. Biography. 2010.


Climate & Environment



Taco Anema. Tales of Water: A Child’s View. 2006.


James Croll. Climate and Time in their Geological Relations: a Theory of Secular Changes of the Earth's Climate. 1893.

Croll recounts one of the earlier climate models, which he developed in the 19th century. Croll hypothesizes that as the Earth’s orbit changes, the Earth will receive more or less energy from the sun, leading to warmer or cooler climates. While much has changed, the idea that the climate can change over time endures.

Mathias Braschler. The Human Face of Climate Change. 2011.


Lorin Blodget. Climatology of the United States and of the Temperate Latitudes of the North American Continent. 1857.

This book is the first comprehensive work on American climate, pulling together data from hundreds of weather stations across America as far back to the 18th century. In addition to describing the climate of America at the time of publication, Blodget also considered the idea of anthropogenic climate change. He ultimately rejected it. To us, over 150 years later, this book is not only an historical artifact but also a tool that we can use to explore and substantiate ideas of climate change.

Camille Flammarion. The Atmosphere. 1873.


Elsi Vassdal Ellis. There Goes the Neighborhood. 2010.





Isaac Newton. Opticks: or a Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections and Colours of Light. 1704.


Naglaa Walker. On Physics. 2004.


Benjamin Franklin. New Experiments and Observations on Electricity: Made at Philadelphia in America. 1754.


Amandine Nabarra-Piomelli. Bernoulli Equation for Unsteady Potential Flow. 2008.

This artist’s book by Amandine Nabarra-Piomelli is a sequence of nine continuous photographs that visually and tactilely mimic the action of a body in water. The Bernoulli equation for unsteady potential flow (named for Daniel Bernoulli, 18th-century Dutch-Swiss mathematician) is used, among other places, in the theory of ocean surface waves and acoustics.






Lynn Sures et al. ±OnePercent. 2010.

Using an early twentieth-century textbook on genetics as its point of departure, this artist’s book explores the complex relationship between DNA, family, and individual identity.

Alfred Russel Wallace. Tropical Nature, and Other Essays. 1878.


Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu. Evolution. 2007.


Sara Press, Laurie Whitehill-Chong, and Lynne A. Isbell. Evolve = Unroll. 2013.

Defying our typical conception of what a book is, this work takes the form of a felt egg which houses a paper snake printed with text. The letterpress text deals with snake detection theory, which proposes that human vision and intelligence are dependent upon co-evolution with snakes.

Charles Darwin. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: or, the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. 1859.





Charles Darwin. The Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants. 1875.

Robert John Thornton. A Family Herbal: or, Familiar Account of the Medical Properties of British and Foreign Plants, also their Uses in Dying, and the Various Arts, Arranged According to the Linnaean System. 1814.


John Parkinson. Theatrum Botanicvm: the Theater of Plants. Or, An Herball of a Large Extent. 1640.


Willem Piso. Gulielmi Pisonis Medici Amstelaedamensis De Indiae Utriusque Re Naturali et Medica: Libri Quatuordecim, Quorum Contenta Pagina Sequens Exhibit. 1658.


John Gerard. The Herball: or General Historie of Plantes. 1636.


Leonhardt Fuchs. “New Kreüterbuch.” 1543. Plate # 18 in Nissen, Claus. Herbals of Five Centuries: 50 Original Leaves from German, French, Dutch, English, Italian, and Swiss Herbals. 1958.


“Gart der Gesuntheit.” 1485. Plate #3 in Nissen, Claus.


Anne Ophelia Dowden. “Original illustration for From Flower to Fruit.” Anne Ophelia Dowden Papers, 1990-1998.

Boulder native Anne Ophelia Dowden (1907-2007) was a free-lance botanical artist and writer, whose first illustrations were for a book written by her father, a pathologist at the University of Colorado. She authored and illustrated numerous books of botanical illustrations, including Blossom on the Bough, From Flower to Fruit, and The Golden Circle. Her illustrations were also printed in leading magazines such as Audubon.

Heather Kasvinsky. The Alaskan Giving Tree: Betula Neoalaskana. 2011.


Karl Blossfeldt. Art Forms in Nature: Examples from the Plant World Photographed Direct from Nature. 1929.


Ann E. Kalmbach. Pistol, Pistil: Botanical Ballistics. 1997.

This artist’s book explores connections between language for vegetation and growth and language for military dominance and violence. In addition to relying upon image and text, the artist also includes thin slices of actual vegetables into the work. A slice of a squash plant is juxtaposed against an illustration of marching military men, while mushroom slices are juxtaposed against an illustration a mushroom cloud formed by an atomic bomb.





Catherine Chalmers. American Cockroach. 2004.


Charles Athanase Walckenaer. Histoire Naturelle des Insectes: Aptères. 1837-1847.


Maria Sibylla Merian. Leningrad Watercolours. [Originals ca. 1699-1701.]

Selected plates:

Hairy cotton, Helicopsis cupido, caterpillar & chrysalis, arctian moth

Hyacinth, tiger moth, & ichneumon fly

Pomegranate, morpho, hawk moth, & swallowtail


Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) was a scientist, artist, and explorer. She became one of the most celebrated woman artists of her time, hailed by Linnaeus and Goethe, and is considered one of the founders of modern zoology. In particular, Merian observed the full life cycle of many insect species, documenting that dramatically different life forms belonged to the same species. In 1699, Merian and her daughter went to Surinam in South America. These drawings of butterflies, flowers, and insects were completed over the two years she was in Surinam.

Bruce Purser. Jungle Bugs: Masters of Camouflage and Mimicry. 2003.


John Curtis. Farm Insects: Being the Natural History and Economy of the Insects Injurious to the Field Crops of Great Britain and Ireland, and also those which Infest Barns and Granaries, with Suggestions for their Destruction.



Jo Whaley. The Theater of Insects: Photographs. 2008.

Linda Broadfoot. Insecta. 2005.

In the tradition of 16th and 17th century European insect collectors, Broadfoot creates a “narrative frame for these strange and beautiful creatures,” juxtaposed against a short story by A.S. Byatt. Broadfoot photographed the insect specimens borrowed from the Florida State Collection of Arthropods and enclosed them in a maple and poplar specimen box to create her “Cabinet of Wonder.”