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OF AN EARLY WUNDERKAMMER
WITH DEPICTIONS OF NUMEROUS AMERICAN ITEMS
RARE COMPLETE ISSUE
WITH EXTENSIVE HISTORICAL APPENDIX
OLEARIUS, Adam. Gottorffische Kunst-Kammer, worinnen allerhand ungemeine Sachen, so theils die Natur, theils künstlische Hände hervor gebracht und bereitet …. Schleswig, Gottfriedt Schultzen, 1674.
4to [19.5 x 15.2 cm], (6) ff. (including an engraved title page), 80 pp., with XXXVII full-page engraved plates. [With:], OLEARIUS, A., Kurtzer Begriff einer Holsteinischen Chronic …, (2) ff., 148 pp., (4) ff., (1) folding genealogical engraving. [And with:] SOLINUS, Christianus. Holsteinische Chronica, aus des Hern Christiani Solini …, 2 pp., (2) ff. Bound in contemporary vellum, manuscript title and shelf mark on spine, red sprinkled edges. Minor rubbing, minor staining and edge wear to binding. Frontispiece short at fore-edge and trimmed to platemark at bottom but clearly integral with the binding, which is contemporary; the occasional minor stain, occasional very minor worming, light to moderate browning as expected in German books of this time. Very good overall.
$9,000 The rare 1674 first complete edition, here augmented with a second part, of the illustrated catalogue of the renowned Wunderkammer of Friedrich III, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein (1597-1659), housed at Gottorp Castle. The Gottorffische Kunst-Kammer is authored by the collection’s curator and librarian, the noted mathematician, geographer, diplomat and traveler Adam Olearius (1603-1671) and ranks alongside the most important early illustrated works describing 16th- and 17th-century cabinets of curiosity in situ, including the catalogues to collections of Ferrante Imperato in Naples (1599), Olaus Worm in Copenhagen (1655), John Tradescent in London (1656), and Ferdinando Cospi in Bologna (1677). In addition to numerous items from Asian and European contexts, the Gottorp collection housed several objects from the New World, including a mannequin of a “West Indian woman from Mexico showing how she carries her children and wears as ornaments the teeth and claws of wild animals in place of gold chains,” an iguana (“very common throughout America”), a sloth from Brazil, an armadillo (“found everywhere in America”), “the skull of an American goat [a bighorn sheep?] brought to Holland where it died,” a “very poisonous” rattlesnake from America, a constrictor and a tarantula from Brazil, unusual fruits from ‘Guyana in America,’ and the like.
Olearius began expressly acquiring artifacts and natural wonders for Friedrich III in 1649, but also drew on material from his own scientific embassies to Russia and Persia undertaken in the 1630s, and secured in 1651 the famed collection of the physician Bernhard Paludanus (1550-1633) of Enkhuizen. The engraved title page of the Gottorffische Kunst-Kammer depicts the arched entryway to the museum with artifacts visible in the rooms beyond, while the work’s 37 full-page engravings catalogue scores of ethnological and natural-historical items, including costumes (Chinese, Persian, Mexican), idols (a Buddha, Egyptian gods and pharaohs, Greenland fetishes), terrestrial animals (armadillo, iguana, sloth, crocodile, chameleon), horns, mummies, snakes, birds (emu, dodo, toucan), feathers, nests, beetles, spiders, seeds, petrified wood, marine fossils and marine life (walrus, blowfish, swordfish, seahorse, horseshoe crab, sharks’ teeth, shells of all sorts, and a giant squid with a long anecdote of its discovery in 1661), all grouped according to what today would be considered quite surprising taxonomies (e.g., ‘the four elements,’ ‘sea wonders,’ etc.). Although Olearius notes in his introduction that the Gottorp collection is more concerned with natural wonders than with fine art, he does reproduce Arcimboldo’s ‘Four Seasons’ paintings (and fruit-and-vegetable costumes inspired by them), and, reflecting the staunch Protestantism of the region, he groups a Russian icon of Saint Nicolas with idols of pagan gods.
In his introduction, Olearius mentions a ‘wonder’ he himself helped design, one of the Gottorp’s most famed items, the ‘Globe of Gottorp,’ a massive sphere more than 3 meters in diameter into which visitors could enter and use as a sort of proto-planetarium (partially destroyed by fire in 1747 and now on view, restored, at St. Petersburg’s Kunstkamera). In 1742, The Gottorp Kunstkammer was incorporated into the famed collection founded by Frederick III of Denmark (1609-1670) in Copenhagen.
That Olearius’ role as ‘curator’ to Dukes of Schleswig-Holstein extended beyond the physical material he collected for the Kunstkammer is evident here by his inclusion of two extensive texts preserving historical and genealogical material relating to the region: The Holsteinische Chronica is a reedition of a 1615 local history by Christianus Solinus, giving a year-by-year account of the area from the reign of Charlemagne until 1606, while in the Kurtzer Begriff einer Holsteinischen Chronic – which contains a folding engraved genealogical chart – Olearius expands and extends the work of Solinus, drawing on twenty-one authors to give an annalistic account of Schleswig-Holstein from the election of Christian VII of Oldenburg as King of Denmark in 1448 until the present (1663), and including information on Olearius’ time in Russia and Persia, his activities with the Kunstkammer, and the building of the Gottorp Globe (pp. 136-38).
OCLC locates no U.S. copies of the very rare 1666 first edition – which was published with one fewer plates than the present 1674 edition (without plate 37, the giant squid) – and only 3 U.S. copies of the present edition (Stanford, Chicago, and Johns Hopkins). A second 1674 issue of the Gottorffische Kunst-Kammer lacks the extensive appended historical material of the Holsteinische Chronica and the Kurtzer Begriff (OCLC locates U.S. copies at Getty and Brown).
* Fearrington, Rooms of Wonder, no. 25; Cobres, I p. 116; Grinke, 42 Murray, I; Bruun II, 160; Dunnhaupt p. 1318; Goedeke II, 65, 12; F. Behzad, Adam Olearius Persianischer Rosenthal: Untersuchungen zur Übersetzung von Saadis ‘Golestan’ im 17. Jahrhundert; E. C. Brancaforte, Visions of Persia: Mapping the Travels of Adam Olearius; F. Prinz, “Von den Historien fremder Völker: Des Adam Olearius Gesandtschaftsreisen durch Russland und Persien,” Damals, vol 24 (1994), pp. 850-66; K. Rauch, Seidenstraße über Moskau: Die große Reise von Adam Olearius nach Moskau und Isphahan zwischen 1633 und 1639; H. D. Schepelern, “Natural Philosophers and Princely Collectors: Worm, Paludanus and the Gottorp and Copenhagen Collections,” The Origins of Museums: The Cabinet of Curiosities in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Europe, O. Impy and A MacGregor, eds., pp. 121-7.
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