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Description - Cabinets of Curiosities by Patrick Mauries

'Infinite riches in a little room' - such were the cabinets of curiosities of the 17th century, the last period of history when man could aspire to know everything. Once the concern only of scholars and art-historians, the cabinet of curiosities has, since the Surrealists, undergone an astonishing revival as an object of aesthetic pleasure, as well as emerging as a source of inspiration for interior designers and contemporary artists.

Unicorn horns, mermaids' skeletons, minerals of breath-taking beauty, fossils, preserved animals and plants, sea-shells, monstrous births, insects in amber, wax effigies, death-masks, ivory carvings of incredible virtuosity, automata that imitated living things, clocks, musical instruments, lenses, celestial globes ... all knowledge, the whole cosmos arranged - all these could be found in Cabinets of Curiosity.

This book traces their amazing history, 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.

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