Students select rare science books for display in Doheny Library

Events and Exhibitions

What do giant insects, ancient maps, half-dissected bodies, and medieval funerals have in common? They can all be found in a student-curated exhibition on display in Doheny Memorial Library. Picturing Knowledge: Scientific Images in Printed Rare Books (1450-1800) is the culmination of a Thematic Option course exploring the dissemination of scientific knowledge in the early modern European era.

After spending the semester researching the printed book’s role in expanding global trade, colonialism, and knowledge-production, the student-curators organized their materials into four themes: Science on the Page; Mapping Places, Mapping People; European Explorations of the Natural World; and Exploring the Human Body.

A corresponding online component elaborates on these themes with essays and additional images of the materials. USC Dornsife Professor Daniela Bleichmar and USC Libraries Special Collections curator Michaela Ullman selected a large list of books for review but the students chose the pages to display and crafted the exhibition’s narrative structure.

Some of the items on display include an illuminated 15th-century Book of Hours, a 1609 map of the world by the Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator, a 1665 magnified picture of a louse by the English scientist Robert Hooke and a 1725 oversized book of surgery by the Flemish anatomist Andreas Vesalius.

Picturing Knowledge is on display on the first floor of Doheny Memorial Library through February 1, 2023. The library is open to the public and the building hours can be found here.