From the head of a fly to the teeth of a snail: Ten of Robert Hooke's Micrographia Diagrams

| 11 September 2015

The National Library of Wales has very kindly released images from Robert Hooke's remarkable Micrographia Diagrams (1665) via Wikimedia Commons. Here are ten of our favourites

a photo of a front cover called Micrographia or some Physiological Descriptions of minute bodies made by Magnifying Glasses with Observations and Inquiries thereupon
The front cover of Hooke's Micrographia © Public domain via National Library of Wales
A book of many firsts, Robert Hooke’s Micrographia (1666) was the first scientific bestseller and the first to make illustrations of plants and insects using microscopes. It was also the first major publication of the fledgling Royal Society, which was established in 1660.

With its fold out folios of bugs and insects – all rendered in minute detail on copper plate engravings - it caused a sensation. Samuel Pepys described it as “the most ingenious book that I ever read in my life."

And as well as opening up the microscopic world of insects and the potential of the new microscope it also expanded on some of the ideas of its polymath author whose interests ranged from astronomy, gravity and wave theory to evolution, horology and the origin of fossils.

Feast your eyes like it's 1666:

Head of a grey drone-fly
A close up drawing of a fly's head
The Eyes and Head of a Grey drone-Fly© Public domain via National Library of Wales

Hooke flea

a side on drawing of a flea
Schem. XXXIV - Of a Flea. An illustration of a flea thought to have been drawn by Sir Christopher Wren© Public domain via National Library of Wales

A louse
a black and white drawing of a louse with six legs holding on to a strand of hair
Robert Hooke (1635-1703), Schem. XXXV - Of a Louse. Diagram of a louse© Public domain via National Library of Wales
Vegetation mould

a drawing of leaf spores
Schem. XII - Of blue Mould and of the first Principles of Vegetation arising from Putrefaction of a Plant growing in the blighted or yellow specks of Damask-rose-leaves, Bramble-leaves, and some other kind of leaves.© Public domain via National Library of Wales
The sting of nettles

a drawing of nettle spines in close up
Schem. XV- Of the stinging points and juice of Nettles, and some other venomous Plants and Of the Beard of a wilde Oat, and the use that may be made of it for exhibiting always to the Eye the temperature of the Air, as to driness and moisture.© Public domain via National Library of Wales
The seeds of tyme

a drawing of a group  of seed pods
Robert Hooke (1635-1703), Schem. XVIII - Of the Seeds of Tyme.© Public domain via National Library of Wales
The feet of flies

a drawing of various parts of a fly's feet
Schem. XXIII - Of the Feet of Flies, and several other Insects. Of the Structure and motion of the Wings of Flies. Of the Eyes and Head of a Grey drone-Fly, and of several other creatures.© Public domain via National Library of Wales
Teeth of a snail

a drawing of a minute slug like shape with ridges in it
Schem. XXV - 1. Of the Teeth of a Snail.© Public domain via National Library of Wales
Shepherd or 'long legged' spider

a drawing of a small creature with ten legs from above and below
Robert Hooke (1635-1703), Schem. XXXI - Of the Shepherd Spider, or long legg'd Spider.© Public domain via National Library of Wales

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Go further:

Find out more about the Royal Society at

Read about Robert Hooke on the Science Museum website

Robert Hooke: The Man who k new everything on the Royal Museums Greenwich website
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