Systematic observation is the foundation of scientific enquiry, and science has progressed, step by step, by the regular publication, and subsequent correction, of observed data.
The tables of celestial movements compiled by the ancient Greek astronomer Ptolemy were refined first by medieval Arabic scientists from the Islamic world, and then by the astronomers of the European Renaissance. Early medical manuals, written in the belief that there was a close sympathy between the cosmos (the macrocosm) and the human body (the microcosm), were replaced by books describing and illustrating in detail our internal anatomical structure.
Scientific publications became more elaborate thanks to advances in technology. The invention of increasingly powerful observational instruments, in particular the telescope and the microscope, opened up new vistas, from the immensities of space to the wonderfully intricate anatomical structures of the insect world. From the early seventeenth century, realms beyond the reach of the unaided human eye were reproduced – for the first time – on paper, and distributed in print.