We have now discussed the physical characteristics of animals and their methods of generation. Their habits and their modes of living vary according to their character and their food….
Opening of Book 8, translation by D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson.
For November, we will read selections from Aristotle’s History of Animals.
In the Prefatory Note to his translation, D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson puts the composition of these studies in Aristotle’s middle age, started when he was in Mitylene, in the period after Plato’s death and before his time in Macedon (page vi). Richard Creswell, in his Preface, describes this work as “the most ancient and celebrated contribution to science which has come down to us; and it is hardly possible, when we consider the means of observation which were accessible at the time, to imagine a work of more accurate observation.” (page v). He also notes that Aristotle did draw on previous works and improves upon them, and says “With such predecessors and aided by his own acute observations, we need not wonder that Aristotle produced a work which has ever been admired by naturalists” (page vi).
The work comprises nine books (the tenth, included in some editions, is not regarded as by Aristotle); in summary:
- comparisons of forms and parts of the body
- internal organs of different types of animal
- reproductive system and other constituent parts of the body
- animals without blood, and senses
- breeding habits of various animals
- continues the breeding habits of animals
- reproduction in humans
- diet and habits of various animals (Cresswell describes this as “the most interesting part of his work”)
- habits and relations of different species
Taking Creswell’s recommendation, then, we will all read Book 8, and you can also read whichever other Book or Books appeal to you.
You can read any translation you like; here are links to translations that are free online:
Translation by Richard Cresswell,
to read online or download at archive.org
Discussion will start and continue in the Forum, and we will meet via Zoom on Tuesday November 28 at 11 a.m. EST (note change from Daylight Saving to Standard time). The link will be posted in the Forum on the day.