Cabinets of Curiosities

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9780500510919: Cabinets of Curiosities

Unicorns' horns, mermaids' skeletons, beautiful minerals, monstrous births, insects in amber, wax effigies, mysterious fossils, corals in fantastic shapes, death-masks, ivory carvings, automata that imitated living things, jewellery, work in precious metals, clocks, musical instruments, lenses, scientific instruments, terrestrial and celestial globes - all knowledge, the cosmos arranged on shelves, in cupboards, or hanging from the ceiling. Such were the cabinets of curiosities of the 17th century. This volume traces the history of these "rooms of wonders" from their first appearance in the inventories and engravings commissioned by Renaissance nobles such as the Medici or the Hapsburgs, via those of the Dane Ole Wurm and the Italian polymath Athanasius Kircher, to the serious 17th- and 18th-century scientists Elias Ashmole and Levinas Vincent. Patrick Mauries reconstructs these rooms as they were in their heyday and illustrates many of the most exotic items they contained, as well as the few complete interiors that survive. He begins with the totality of the collection, the cosmos in miniature, the whole sum of human knowledge gathered together in one room. He then looks at the cabinets that contained and categorized the objects. Next he opens them to reveal the extraordinary melange of curiosities, specimens and works of art. He also looks at the personalities of the collectors themselves, from great princes to humble scholars, and finally at the modern revival of the cabinet of curiosities among both artists and public, a strong current in contemporary culture. Looking back in time to the remarkable collections formed by the early museum creators, Patrick Mauries's illustrated study explains how the modern museum came to be.

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About the Author:

Patrick Mauriès is a Paris-based contributing editor to the Italian design magazine FMR and former literary editor of Liberation.

From Library Journal:

In this sumptuously illustrated volume, Mauries (Jean Cocteau) presents the long history of cabinets of curiosities-grand accumulations of rare, exotic, or unusual objects either natural or human-made, displayed in decorative cases or entire rooms. The earliest documented case, from late 15th-century Italy, was a collection of books as well as a variety of botanical and zoological specimens (including a stuffed crocodile). Collections have also included textiles, scientific and musical instruments, ethnographic objects, automata, paintings, silverware, and mummified anatomical specimens. That the fascination with collecting-as well as with organizing these collections in some artistic fashion-has continued through the centuries is evident in the "shadow boxes" by 20th-century artists such as Joseph Cornell. In many ways, this book is a cabinet of curiosities in itself-crammed with fascinating images and information. While the images are the book's strength (the author is affiliated with the beautifully illustrated Italian journal FMR), some are used as background to the text, thereby either obscuring or being obscured by the printed page. Even worse, some lack captions or have captions that are erroneous. In addition, the book suffers from not having an adequate index or a glossary to help with the many foreign and esoteric terms used. Although the book is fun to browse through, it shouldn't be considered a necessary purchase.
Margaret Gross, Chicago P.L.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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