Scotia Illustrata: pre-industrial Scotland

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Scotia Illustrata: pre-industrial Scotland, is a postdoctoral research project run by recent Cardiff University postgraduate Lee Raye, starting on July 1st 2016.

This will be the first ever project to fully translate and comment upon a pre-Linnean Natural History from Britain.

Robert Sibbald’s Scotia Illustrata (1684) provides a full record of Scotland’s natural resources in the years before the Industrial Revolution.

The first phase of the project has been generously funded by the Society of Antiquaries of London, and the Alice McCosh Trust.

Interested parties can find out more about the work, author and text by visiting the project website:


Scotia Illustrata is a pre-Linnean natural history written by Robert Sibbald. It’s especially interesting because Sibbald only includes species found in Scotland, according to his living informants. The book therefore catalogues and describes the natural resources of Scotland in a way never before seen, immediately before the Industrial Revolution. That’s interesting to southern Britain too, because Scotland in the seventeenth century had a very similar fauna and flora to fourteenth century south Britain. The text has sections on diseases, natural remedies, plants, geography, geology and wildlife.

Scotia Illustrata is really important for the history of science and as a source on political and social history as well as environmental history. The text contains unique evidence like the oldest British reference to the leatherback turtle.

The funded phase of the project will create a complete translation and commentary on section II:3 which is the text’s natural history section. That covers wild and domestic ‘quadrupeds’ (generally live-bearing mammals, but also egg-bearing amphibians and reptiles), birds, fish and insects.

Interested readers can find out more by visiting Some of the research and difficult questions will be shared online throughout the life of the project.


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