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Natural History Art, Coral, Count de Marsigli, 18th C, Antique Print


Luigi Ferdinando, Count de Marsigli (1658-1730) (editor)
Matthys Pool (1670-1732) et al. (engravers)
Set of Prints of Coral
from Natuurkundige Beschryving der Zeën [Natural History of the Sea]
De Compagnie, The Hague, Netherlands: 1786
Hand-colored engravings
7.5 x 12.25 inches, image, average approximate
16 x 9.75 inches each, overall
$375 each

Natural history studies of colorful coral specimens from a pioneering 18th century natural history work on marine life by Luigi Ferdinando, Count de Marsigli. Each engraving combines scientific observation and aesthetic appreciation of the coral’s intricate patterns and unusual branched forms. This work was first published in 1725 as Histoire Physique de la Mer, and republished with 40 plates in a Dutch edition in 1786.

Also available: Plate 17 from this series

Product Description Continues Below


Luigi Ferdinando, Count of Marsigli was an Italian geographer and naturalist from Bologna. A member of the aristocracy, he was well-educated and studied mathematics, anatomy and natural history. He joined the military and served the Habsburg Emperor Leopold from 1680 to 1703 in a lengthy war against the Turks. He was forced to resign in disgrace, though his public reputation later recovered. While still a soldier, he was stationed in what was then known as the Kingdom of Hungary and continued to develop his scientific interests. His first published work studied the Bosphorus, but much of his scientific investigations during this period later became the basis for Danubius Pannonico-mysicus, a major work on the Danube River, the complete version of which was published in 1726. In 1712, Marsigli returned to Bologna and presented his collection to the city. A few years later he established the Accademia delle Scienze dell’Instituto di Bologna. He later established a publishing house and continued to add to his collections. Marsigli was a foreign associate of the Paris Academy of Sciences and a member of the Royal Society of London and of the scientific society in Montpellier.

In 1725 he published his treatise Natural History of the Sea, which was his most influential book; today he is considered a forerunner of modern oceanography. This work was later reissued in the Netherlands in 1786 as Natuurkundige Beschryving der Zeën. In this work, Marsigli presented his idea that the geological structure of the European continent continues under the sea bed, but the longest section of the book concerned his study of marine animals and plants, including his contribution to the growth and structure of coral. Although he first believed corals to be minerals formed like crystals, after collecting living specimens he observed them producing what he saw as “flowers.” He recognized they were living things, but incorrectly concluded they were plants.

Matthys Pool was a Dutch draftsman and printmaker based in Amsterdam. He contributed engravings to Cornelis de Bruyn’s Reizen door de vermaardste deelen van Klein Asia (1698) and Reizen over Moskovie, door Persie en Indie (1714), Gerard de Lairesse’s Grondlegginge der teekenkonst (1701), and Luigi Ferdinando de Marsigli’s Natural History of the Sea (1725).

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, cockling.


Fox, William. “Luigi Ferdinando, Count de Marsigli.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. Online at (22 September 2008).

Stoye, John. Marsigli’s Europe, 1680-1730. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994. pp. 27, 267-268.

Additional information


18th Century