Virtual Scilla Collection project

University of Cambridge Museums

Vain Speculation Undeceived by Sense front coverOne of the questions most frequently asked by visitors to the Sedgwick Museum is what exactly are fossils and how do they form?

This question also fascinated Agostino Scilla (1629-1700); an artist who lived in the Sicilian town of Messina during the 1600s. Scilla attempted to answer this question in his book La vana speculazione disingannata dal senso (Vain Speculation Undeceived by Sense), published in Naples in 1670.  Scilla’s collection of fossils and the drawings he produced from them are held in the Woodwardian Collection of the Sedgwick Museum.

The Sedgwick Museum has published a free English language eBook of ‘La vana speculazione’ as part of its Arts Council England funded ‘Virtual Scilla Collection’ project.

Habakkuk brings bread to Daniel in the lions' den. One of Scilla’s frescos in the Sacrament Chapel, Siracusa Cathedral (Image by Giovanni Dall'Orto) Habakkuk brings bread to Daniel in the lions’ den. One of Scilla’s frescos in the Sacrament Chapel, Siracusa Cathedral (Image: Giovanni Dall’Orto)

Artist & naturalist

Agostino Scilla studied to be an artist at Messina in Sicily…

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About Jose Ramon Marcaida

I’m a historian of science interested in the history of early modern Iberian science and its connection with Renaissance and Baroque visual culture. More generally, I’m interested in the relation between texts, images and things across the Humanities.
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