Micrographica: or Some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies Made by Magnifying Glasses. With Observations and Inquiries Thereupon.

Last year I began a body of work that used the snow crystal’s growth and form as a jumping off  point. I wanted to write and post a bit about snow and its shapes since they are so intriguing. How they are depicted has led me down different rabbit holes of history and nature. But not anticipating all that would happen last year, (see the previous post) it got pushed to the side. (To make a long story short I’m better and feeling great!)

These images I found in Micrographia (1665) by Robert Hooke. They are drawings of snow crystals observed under a microscope. Many famous drawings abound in this book and also Hooke’s famous first use of the word “cell” as a biological term. I was happily surprised to find, while scrolling though the Project Gutenburg’s version of Micrographica, studies of snow crystals. The crystals he draws from were formed on the surface of freezing urine within a vessel, (Hooke even gives instructions on how to recreate this). Even more odd he gives tasting notes, eating one of the crystals formed on the urine commenting that it tasted much like water. Thanks for that tidbit Hooke.

What is enthralling about the drawings were how the details of the snow crystals were rendered. To me there is an intentional, yet unsure way how Hooke has drawn the snow flakes. Maybe my eyes have become too used to incredibly detailed images taken with cameras and Electron Microscopes. Hooke’s drawings are heavily fine lined, one illustration is like a leaf with a shadow, some are small stars. Reading more of what he says about his observations of snow crystals, he thinks they imitate fern leaves, molds, and mushroom growth. The bottom image is so interesting in that the snow flake looks like to be morphing into something other than a snow flake. I think of a flake of detergent beginning to suds, or fungi with ribs. On the bottom right of that last image there is a sort of boulder of black lines folding into one another. I do not know how that related to ice or snow, and I can’t think how. I wish I could ask him.