Animal and Vegetable Physiology: Considered with Reference to Natural Theology is a text about the complex characteristics of the natural world, but it is framed in terms of theology. Thus, the paratext of the work supports both the scientific and the religious elements of the content in interesting ways. The author Peter Mark Roget’s voice is clear throughout the Treatise, in everything from the Preface to the footnotes. This work contains a lot of specific scientific language, so Roget utilizes the paratext to clarify things or explain them to his readers. Additionally, he employs paratext to ensure that his readers do not forget the underlying objective behind this work: to emphasize that all of these beautiful natural beings were created by God.
The first addition to this text that I find extremely important is the epigraph. Both volumes of Animal and Vegetable Physiology have Biblical epigraphs, reminding readers that although this is a scientific text, it was God who “wrought” Earth’s creatures.
Volume I Epigraph:
“Ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: / Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee; and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. / Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this?” (Job, xii. 7, 8, 9.)
Volume II Epigraph:
“And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.” (1 Cor. xii. 6.)
The epigraphs appear next to the title pages, and the subtitle of the work itself also underscores the religious function of the text: Considered with Reference to Natural Theology.
Following the title page is a dedication, which I discussed briefly in my Origins post, and then comes Roget’s Preface. The preface is a critical addition to this text for several reasons. First, Roget uses the preface to once again foreground the concept that this text is primarily based on theology. He describes his desire to uphold the wishes of the Earl of Bridgewater, as well as his personal intentions for the work. Roget expresses his hope that this work will serve “to supply inexhaustible sources of intellectual gratification, but also to furnish, to contemplative minds, a rich fountain of religious instruction” (ix). In the Preface, Roget also discusses his intended audience: “To render these benefits generally accessible, I have confined myself to such subjects as are adapted to every class of readers” (ix). Finally, while an addition itself, the preface directly references other paratext of Animal and Vegetable Physiology. Roget explicitly explains the reasoning behind including diagrams in this work:
“Mere verbal description can never convey distinct ideas of the form and structure of parts, unless aided by figures; and these I have accordingly introduced very extensively in the course of the work” (xi).
He also discusses the index and how it aids in his goal to convey information clearly and effectively:
“Being compelled, from the nature of my subject, and in order to avoid tedious and fatiguing circumlocution, to employ many terms of science, I have been careful to explain the meaning of each when first introduced: but as it might frequently happen that, on a subsequent occurrence, their signification may have been forgotten, the reader will generally find in the index, which I have, with this view, made very copious, a reference to the passage where the term is explained” (xi).
A table of Contents follows the preface, which is very useful given the function of this text. The content of the work is divided by Volume, Part, Chapter, and subsections within each chapter. Each of these components is laid out in the Contents, and they are clarified throughout the text by headings, subheadings, and running heads. Each new part and chapter begin on their own page, but the subsections within the chapters run continuously in the content.
Following the Contents is another critical addition to the text: the List of Engravings. The List of Engravings is in Volume I, and it includes every diagram of the Treatise by figure number, caption, and page number. In total, Animal and Vegetable Physiology contains 463 engravings.
The diagrams appear directly in the text, next to where they are being discussed, and they are laid out in the text in a variety of ways. As Roget points out in the preface, these illustrations are critical for readers’ understanding of the text, and the list of engravings provides readers with a catalogue for all of them.
Another important piece of paratext in this work is the Outline of Cuvier’s Classification of Animals (image can be viewed in Introduction post). Roget provides this information to his readers in order to give them a more well-rounded understanding of the natural world and its creatures. Throughout the text he references Cuvier’s Classification, so its position in the front of the book is very useful.
Within the work’s actual content, there are further examples of useful paratext. Roget’s use of footnotes is particularly noteworthy; they appear appear consistently throughout the text for clarification purposes. Many of the footnotes direct readers to different sections of the book or to other sources entirely. Others serve to clarify certain terminology or nomenclature. Several footnotes also function to emphasize (once again) the theological position of the text. In the Introduction, Roget refers to “Nature’s” production, and includes the following footnote:
“*In order to avoid thee [sic] too frequent, and consequently irreverent, introduction of the Great Name of the SUPREME BEING into familiar discourse on the operations of his power, I have, throughout this Treatise, followed the common usage of employing the term Nature as a synonym, expressive of the same power, but veiling from our feeble sight the too dazzling splendour of its glory” (25).
Roget is pointing out that while his text discusses characteristics of nature, God ‘s power underlies everything. Roget’s voice comes through very clearly in the text; he speaks directly to his readers, unlike many works on the same subject which function more like a textbook.
The end of Volume II contains another critical addition: what Roget calls the “Unity of Design.” The Unity of Design functions like a conclusion in that it essentially wraps up the entire treatise. In it, Roget discusses how incredible it is that Nature (God) created all these living things. He speaks as if God laid out a formula and constructed all living things in the world to perfection, but Roget also presents further hypotheses about animal and vegetable physiology. Ultimately, however, the Unity of Design intends, as does much of the other paratext, to remind readers that God’s hand created all things. Roget says, “From the same gracious hand we also derive that unquenchable thirst for knowledge, which this fleeting life must ever leave unsatisfied… Although we plainly discern intention in every part of the creation, the grand object of the whole is placed far above the scope of our comprehension” (446). Roget intends to keep his reader in check: regardless of everything we do know about God’s incredible creations, we can never attain complete understanding. The Unity of Design, as well as the rest of the paratext throughout Animal and Vegetable Physiology, serves to educate readers about the workings of the natural world while maintaining that this knowledge is entirely framed around God’s incredible power.