Ancient Greek and Roman scientific and technical works, especially in the exact sciences, were much more commonly illustrated than texts in other genres. The images in those texts ranged from the relatively abstract diagrams in mathematical, astronomical, and harmonic texts to the more pictorial images of botanical, medical, and surveying texts. For the most part, the images that survive are found in medieval manuscript copies. Although there are often striking variations from one manuscript to another, and the parchment or paper codex offers very different possibilities for illustrations than the papyrus rolls on which the ancient texts would originally have been composed, the texts themselves often offer clues about the author’s intentions for the images that accompanied the text.
Illustrations ranging from schematic diagrams to veristic pictorial images are found in surviving copies of many Greek and Roman works on mechanics, harmonics, surveying, medicine, zoology, pharmacology, and other technical subjects.