The first ten years of occupation financially strained the Company, despite considerable profits made from sugar, Brazil-wood, and loot swiped from Iberian ships. In , Johann Maurits arrived to govern, tasked with stabilizing the settlement. Under his leadership which lasted until , the colony thrived. Among the forty-six artists and scholars Maurits hired as his research staff to promote scientific studies in Brazil were the physician Willem Piso and astronomer Georg Markgraf, who arrived in
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Frontispiece, Historia Naturalis Brasiliae Published The Historia contains four books entitled De Medicina Brasiliensi by Willem Pies or Piso concerning mainly medical and culinary aspects of the country, followed by eight books entitled Historia Rerum Brasiliensi by George Marcgraf or Marcgrave dealing with Brazilian botany and zoology, as well as some meteorology, ethnology and geography. Maurits had an obsession with personally creating an earthly paradise in his colony.
This frontispiece reveals a Brazilian version of Adam and Eve, with serene and almost smiling faces. Eve does not hold an apple but rather a bunch of native caju fruit and a stalk of sugarcane. Adam carries a spear. They are in a foreground of a perspective framed by palm trees, with a group of natives dancing in the rear.
Fish, turtles, and crabs appear in the lower part of the composition, while in the upper part snakes coil around trees. The scene is enhanced by representations of several species of bird and fruit, conveying the rich, fertile existence of the colony. The Historia played a critical role in New World natural history. For one hundred fifty years it provided vernacular names and descriptions of some Brazilian plants and animals.
Engraved title-page by Theodor Matham, with about woodcut illustrations after Georg Marcgraf and Albert Eckhout light spotting throughout, one or two marginal tears. Contemporary calf gilt, the spine in seven compartments, with 6 raised bands, gilt-lettered in the second, the others decorated with fine gilt tools expertly rebacked preserving most of the original spine, corners strengthened. Marcgrave was initially commissioned by the Dutch West India Company to travel to north-east Brazil as an astronomer. Along with another student of medicine and mathematics, H. Cralitz who succumbed to disease within a year of his arrival , and the physician, Willem Piso, he arrived in Brazil in Marcgrave travelled extensively, collecting all manner of plants and animals, before he was unexpectedly called upon to travel to Angola, whereupon he too died.
Biodiversity Heritage Library
Pages pp Historia Naturalis Brasiliae English: Brazilian Natural History , originally written in Latin, is the first scientific work on the natural history of Brazil , written by Dutch naturalist Willem Piso and research by German scientist Georg Marcgraf , published in Gralitzio , in addition to humanist Johannes de Laet. It offers an important early European insight into Brazilian flora and fauna by analyzing plants and animals and studying tropical diseases and indigenous therapies. This would lead to concern amongst Piso and his contemporaries that these people might not be able to contribute to studying medicine and botany. We owe to Pies a description, so accurate and meticulous, of the then reigning endemics in Brazil and the means of treating them. He observed the yaws , tetanus , various types of paralysis, dysentery , hemeralopia , maculopapular. He described Ipecac and emeto - cathartic qualities, which aboriginals used long before the famous doctor Adrian Helvetius , grandfather of the notable French philosopher Claudio Adriano Helvetius received from Louis XIV a thousand louis gold, titles and honors for having discovered exactly those same therapeutic virtues.