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Ulisse Aldrovandi Herbarium

After the departure of Luca Ghini from Bologna, one of his pupils, Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522-1650), succeeded him. He was an excellent naturalist and one of the most important scientists of the late 16th and early 17th century.

Aldrovandi has been an acute observer of natural world: investigating all different aspects of nature, collecting hundreds of animal and vegetal samples, writing more than 360 manuscripts on natural sciences Aldrovandi typifies the sixteen century scientist with an Aristotelian and Scholastic background but conscious that explanation of natural phenomena is in the “great book of Nature” not in the Classical.

Aldrovandi was successful where Ghini had failed. Thus, in 1568, he obtained from the Senate the permission to create the Botanic Garden, which he himself directed for 38 years, until his death. Among this huge production, there is the Herbarium, presumably, the oldest survived and, with no doubt, one of the wide-ranging of its times. The collection, probably begun in 1551 and enriched during Aldrovandi’s lifetime, includes 5,000 specimens subdivided in 15 vellum-bound volumes. Each book consists of hundreds of plants glued on sheets. The specimens’ arrangement normally doesn’t follow any criteria – but the alphabetical in the first volumes – unlike it happens for other ancient Herbaria, such as the Andrea Cesalpino’s (1519-1603). The considerable value of this collection is due to the large number of dried plants, to its ancientness and to the particular skill-fullness used in composing it. Aldrovandi held a prominent position in the scientific world and played a guiding role for the Italian naturalists of the time. His impressive naturalistic collections are still preserved in the Museum of Palazzo Poggi.