The appeal of natural history books and prints is twofold, as they are both of scientific and artistic interest. They present a snapshot in time of scientific understanding of the natural world and the meticulous, often boldly colored illustrations are spectacular. The video below provides a glimpse into the American Museum of Natural History's rare book collection. It was produced as a promotional piece for the museum's recently published book, Natural Histories: Extraordinary Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History Library, which sounds like a delightful book.
The prints in the video are gorgeous, but Library Director Tom Baione makes a great point: you really need to see these illustrations in person to fully appreciate the detail and artistry that goes into each image. You can see this kind of material by visiting a special collections library or an ABAA book fair and see these fantastic items in person (the plus of coming to a book fair of course is that you have the option to take the item home with you!). On my recent visit to the New York Academy of Medicine's Library I was able to see a copy of Robert Hooke's Micrographia and I can attest that there's no comparison between seeing it in the video (or online) and in person; for instance, one can't appreciate the size of the inky dot Hooke magnifies and details. The importance of physicality can be difficult for some to comprehend, but once you are able to make a similar comparison you'll get it. Moreover, when these works are physically in front of you, you are provided with a better appreciation for the skill of the artist as well as the work of the printer.