Cabinets of Curiosities
Unicorns' horns, mermaids' skeletons, stuffed and preserved animals and plants, precious metals, clocks, scientific instruments, celestial globes--all knowledge, the whole cosmos, arranged on shelves in a single room. Such were the cabinets of curiosities of the seventeenth century, the last period of history when man could aspire to know everything.The collectors were archdukes and kings--the Emperor Rudolf II was the prince of all collectors--rich merchants and scholars, and their collections ranged from a single crowded room to whole palatial suites. Cabinets of Curiosities traces the amazing history of these unique spaces, receptacles, and fascinating contents within, from their first appearance in the inventories and engravings commissioned by Renaissance noble families, such as the Medicis or the Hapsburgs, via those of the Dane Ole Wurm and the German polymath Athanasius Kircher, to the seventeenth-century scientist Elias Ashmole and Dutch collector Levinus Vincent.Author Patrick Maurie s chronicles the amazing history of these rooms of wonders in this ingeniously erudite survey. Not many of the rooms survive, but there are pictorial records and their contents still exist and are among the treasures of museums all over the world.