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The Science And Aesthetics Of Names In The Natural History

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Chapter Summary

The Natural History is filled with names of animals, plants, minerals, places and people, some familiar, others unknown to all but the most expert of specialist readers. A great deal of scholarship over the years has depended on the correct identification of the things named in Pliny's text, and Pliny's importance to the practice of medicine in the West made the correct interpretation of Pliny's names a pressing problem for scholars well into the sixteenth century. In the Natural History, knowing the name of something is an important form of knowledge, sometimes the only knowledge Pliny provides. If there is a science to naming, and a process of investigation implicit in deciphering them, there is also an aesthetic to naming in the Natural History.

Keywords: aesthetics; natural history; places; plants; Pliny; science



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