© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Hand-coloured woodcut taken from the book 'Origin of Natural Objects', part of the 'Margarita Philosophica' by Gregor Reisch (c 1467-1525). During the Middle Ages the salamander was believed to have the power to withstand and even to quench fire; it 'lieth in the burning fire without consumption and wasting'. First printed in 1503, this encyclopaedic work was once considered the 'tree of all knowledge'. Divided into twelve 'books', it covers the topics of mathematics, cosmography, music, natural history, minerals, astronomy and medicine. Its illustrations, which are of great scientific and historical interest, are some of the earliest known on the various subjects.