Wednesday, March 4, 2009

More sources

Some more sources for my bibliography:

Attenborough, David et al. Amazing Rare Things: The Art of Natural History in the Age of Discovery. London: Royal Collection, 2007.

A book of illustrations of nature from the late 15th to early 18th century, accompanied by essays. The illustrations are stunningly beautiful, and demonstrate a careful attention to the details of natural specimens. These illustrations offers a valuable counterpart to the natural history museums or natural history literature of the time--a different kind of representation of the same objects, and a corollary to the collections being displayed. Natural History museums represent an intergration of art and science, and this book helps convey that idea.

Barrow, Mark. “The Specimen Dealer: Entrepreneurial Natural History in America's Gilded Age.” Journal of the History of Biology 33.3 (2000): 493-534.

This article looks at a rather brief period in American history--from right after the Civil War to the turn of the century--and an interesting niche within the "natural history craze" of the second half of the 19th century. Many natural history societies, and some of the big natural history museums, were founded during this time. The author describes the major changes that were occurring in America at this time which influenced the popular interest in natural history; I'd like to explore this idea further by also understanding the link between what was happening in Europe at the time and what was happening in America. (Possible topic: comparing the popular attitudes and approaches to science, nature and collecting in Europe and America.) The author also offers an interesting reflection on the entrepreneurial spirit as applied to natural history.

Findlen, Paula. Possessing Nature: Museums, Collecting, and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

Recounts both the beginnings of museums in early modern Europe, and of the study of natural history, using Italy as a case study. Findlen discusses two important early naturalists, Ulisse Aldrovandi (famous for his extensive curiosity cabinets) and Athnasius Kircher. A discourse on the importance of collecting and displaying natural objects during the Rennaisance, and how museums were created in an attempt to make sense of the influx of new and foreign objects to Europe. Findlen explains in detail the shifting views of natural history, from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. I particularly like this quote, which serves to create a historical context for the early collections:

While we perceive the museum of natural history to be alternately a research laboratory or a place of public education, they [the early collectors] understood it to be a repository of the collective imagination of their society.
Impey, O. R. Oliver R et al. The Origins of Museums: The Cabinet of Curiosities in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century Europe. Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Clarendon Press, 1985.

I haven't been able to obtain a copy of this book yet, but I think it would be extremely useful for my research and sounds like it's exactly what I'm looking for.

Mullaney, Steven. “Strange Things, Gross Terms, Curious Customs: The Rehearsal of Cultures in the Late Renaissance.” Representations No. 3 (1983). 7 Mar 2009 <>.

Mullaney depicts the wunderkammern or wonder cabinets of the late Renaissance as emblems of the spirit of collection during that time. He argues that these collections were not the forerunners of natural history museums, as they represented a completely different impulse; while the wonder cabinet was a random, disordered display of anything strange or marvellous, museums represented the attempt to order, categorize, and explain natural phenomenon. This article offers a thorough exploration of the Renaissance desire for strange things, although it only focuses on wonder cabinets in the first section.

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