Historia Naturalis

Pliny the Elder/Gaius Plinius Secundus79 AD

The Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum
London, United Kingdom

'The more I observe nature, the less prone I am to consider any statement about her to be impossible.'
Pliny the Elder

Compiled by Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) but published 14 centuries later in 1469, Historia Naturalis was the first printed book on natural history.

It is thought to contain at least 30,000 pieces of information, touching upon all knowledge of the natural world during Pliny's time. Its breadth of subject matter made it a model for all later encyclopaedias.

It would have been an enormous undertaking - Historia Naturalis consists of 37 books on topics ranging from astronomy to zoology. For example, volume three looks at the animal kingdom, with separate books on aquatic creatures, snakes, insects, birds and land animals.

Pliny studied many of these subjects from the perspective of our interaction with nature. He dedicated entire books to subjects such as agriculture and viticulture - the study and production of grapes.

The Museum's Library holds one of the 100 copies printed in 1469, making it the oldest published book in the Museum's collections. It is also Pliny's last and only surviving work, as he died in 79 AD in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Find out more about Historia Naturalis, and other rare books from the Museum's collection >
Explore other key objects related to early natural history >


  • Title: Historia Naturalis
  • Creator: Pliny the Elder/Gaius Plinius Secundus
  • Date Created: 79 AD
  • Date Published: 1469
  • Subject Keywords: Early Natural History

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