Natural History (Pliny)

Naturalis Historia
Naturalis Historia, 1669 edition, title page. The title at the top reads: "Volume I of the Natural History of Gaius Plinius Secundus".
AuthorPliny the Elder
CountryAncient Rome
SubjectNatural history, ethnography, art, sculpture, mining, mineralogy
GenreEncyclopaedia, popular science[1]

The Natural History (Latin: Naturalis historia) is a work by Pliny the Elder. The largest single work to have survived from the Roman Empire to the modern day, the Natural History compiles information gleaned from other ancient authors. Despite the work's title, its subject area is not limited to what is today understood by natural history; Pliny himself defines his scope as "the natural world, or life".[2] It is encyclopedic in scope, but its structure is not like that of a modern encyclopedia. It is the only work by Pliny to have survived, and the last that he published. He published the first 10 books in AD 77, but had not made a final revision of the remainder at the time of his death during the AD 79 eruption of Vesuvius. The rest was published posthumously by Pliny's nephew, Pliny the Younger.

The work is divided into 37 books, organised into 10 volumes. These cover topics including astronomy, mathematics, geography, ethnography, anthropology, human physiology, zoology, botany, agriculture, horticulture, pharmacology, mining, mineralogy, sculpture, art, and precious stones.

Pliny's Natural History became a model for later encyclopedias and scholarly works as a result of its breadth of subject matter, its referencing of original authors, and its index.

  1. ^ Healy, 2004. p. xix, citing Pliny's Preface, 6: "It is written for the masses, for the horde of farmers and artisans".
  2. ^ Natural History I:13

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