Originals

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The Grolier Club in Manhattan is an old society of bibliophiles that occupies a remodeled townhouse in midtown.  I don’t know what their daily business is, but they put on some wonderful free exhibits, including one on Wunderkammers that closes soon.

These ‘rooms of wonder’ were the forerunners of our museums, particularly museums of natural history, and the exhibit documents their place in the Europe of the Enlightenment.  It also includes two color volumes from the catalog of Albertus Seba’s collection, perhaps the most magnificent such publication.  I have a copy of the one-volume Taschen full-size facsimile of the book, and it is a favorite of mine:  I never tire of paging through it.  The alligator below is from the facsimile; the original is on display at the Grolier.  Always wonderful to see the real thing.

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By chance, a second, upstairs exhibit began the day I was there, and it illustrated the history of microscopy, mostly with printed matter, but a few antique microscopes were also on display.  There was a beautiful copy of Robert Hooke’s seminal publication on display, opened to his most famous illustration, a large-scale drawing of a flea.  I have a copy of the book as a high quality Adobe PDF which has the advantage of letting me page through it in its entirety.  What a shock of recognition and revelation this book must have been to the fortunate few who read it in the 17th century!

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4 Responses to Originals

  1. ericjbaker says:

    I love the fanciful tail on the alligator. I also love Taschen books. I’d like to raid their warehouse.

  2. sledpress says:

    Am I the only person who thinks of John Donne while regarding this illustration?

    • Lichanos says:

      Well, I did not, but I understand why you did. Not too many Donne fans out there these days…

      Donne wrote his poem long before Hooke, of course. Maybe Hooke was inspired by the poem!

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