Story: European discovery of plants and animals

Decorative birds (1st of 2)

Decorative birds

This detail of birds is from a decorated page in a breviary – a book of prayers – dating from about 1480. At the time of the Polynesian settlement of New Zealand (1250–1300), European understanding of the natural world was based largely on folklore and biblical traditions. Animals also featured in bestiaries (books about real and fabled creatures), and plants in books known as herbals. In Europe it would be another 200 years before a scientific revolution brought a more rigorous approach, based on accurate descriptions.

Using this item

Auckland City Libraries - Tāmaki Pātaka Kōrero, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Reference: Med.MS.G.134

Permission of Auckland City Libraries Tāmaki Pātaka Kōrero must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

John Andrews, 'European discovery of plants and animals - The first naturalists', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 19 August 2022)

Story by John Andrews, published 24 Sep 2007