Chart Art

BibliOdyssey posted recently about a beautiful series of Entomological and Phytopathological Wall Charts up at Wageningen UR’s special collections site. Though BibliOdyssey does a fine curation, I couldn’t help but share some of my favorites as well.

Recently a friend saw one of these spider anatomy charts for sale in the Bay Area, and kindly sent me a pic. Sadly it's a bit out of my range, but oh so beautiful. Wouldn't you want this in your living room?

I super heart insect comparative anatomy charts, showing mere slices of the stunning diversity of insect morphology. I also heart making them in cardboard.

That there? That's a maggot. Damn fine looking one too.

Galls! A lovely bizarro diagram of gall-making insects.

I love this seemingly random collection of artworks, all depicting internal anatomy of a beetle.

I think what appeals to many people about old biology wall charts is not just what information they convey, but what mysteries they seem to hold.  Either through lack of text or the incongruous juxtaposition of imagery, science charts removed from the classroom become giant mysteries, promising important information but actually revealing little (to the untrained eye at least). Doubtless such charts were accompanied with detailed explanatory text, but without them they become as opaque as a page from the Codex Seraphinianus, and become objects of wonder. A poster of beetle larvae can be seen as abstracts and grotesques with tantalizing numerics orbiting at close range. Thankfully knowing the facts behind these works of art doesn’t diminish them, but makes them even more wonderful.  z end

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