Animals: Art, Science and Sound at the British Library reveals how the intersection of science, art and sound has been instrumental in our understanding of the natural world and continues to evolve today.
From an ancient Greek papyrus detailing the mating habits of dogs to the earliest photographs of Antarctic animals and a recording of the last Kauaʻi ʻōʻō songbird, this is the first major exhibition to explore the different ways in which animals have been written about, visualised and recorded.
Journeying through darkness, water, land and air, visitors will encounter striking artworks, handwritten manuscripts, sound recordings and printed publications that speak to contemporary debates around discovery, knowledge, conservation, climate change and extinction. Each zone also includes a bespoke, atmospheric soundscape created using recordings from the Library’s sound archive.
- The earliest known illustrated Arabic scientific work documenting the characteristics of animals alongside their medical uses (c. 1223)
- The earliest use of the word ‘shark’ in printed English (1569) on public display for the first time
- One of the earliest works on the microscopic world, Micrographia (1665) by Robert Hooke, alongside three insect portraits by photographer Levon Biss (2021) recently acquired by the British Library, which use a combination of microscopy and photography to magnify specimens collected by Charles Darwin in 1836 and Alfred Russell Wallace circa 1859
- Leonardo da Vinci’s notes (1500-08) on the impact of wind on a bird in flight, on public display for the first time
- One of the rarest ichthyology publications ever produced, The Fresh-Water Fishes of Great Britain (1828-38), with hand painted illustrations by Sarah Bowdich
- One of the earliest examples of musical notation being used to represent the songs and calls of birds from 1650 by Athanasius Kircher