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Cabinets of Curiosities Hardcover – October 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson (October 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500515948
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500515945
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 0.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In this sumptuously illustrated volume, Mauries (Jean Cocteau) presents the long history of cabinets of curiosities-grand accumulations of rare, exotic, or unusual objects either natural or human-made, displayed in decorative cases or entire rooms. The earliest documented case, from late 15th-century Italy, was a collection of books as well as a variety of botanical and zoological specimens (including a stuffed crocodile). Collections have also included textiles, scientific and musical instruments, ethnographic objects, automata, paintings, silverware, and mummified anatomical specimens. That the fascination with collecting-as well as with organizing these collections in some artistic fashion-has continued through the centuries is evident in the "shadow boxes" by 20th-century artists such as Joseph Cornell. In many ways, this book is a cabinet of curiosities in itself-crammed with fascinating images and information. While the images are the book's strength (the author is affiliated with the beautifully illustrated Italian journal FMR), some are used as background to the text, thereby either obscuring or being obscured by the printed page. Even worse, some lack captions or have captions that are erroneous. In addition, the book suffers from not having an adequate index or a glossary to help with the many foreign and esoteric terms used. Although the book is fun to browse through, it shouldn't be considered a necessary purchase.
Margaret Gross, Chicago P.L.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Packed with so many images it will appeal to art libraries as well, but is recommended here for its special interest to collections appealing to collectors of oddities.” (The Midwest Book Review)

“Mauriés’ tour of strange objects is entertaining and fascinating. His chapters . . . reflect a deeply intellectual appreciation.” (Antiques & The Arts Weekly)

“[This book] is an entertaining read with hundreds of images of both the collectibles and the elaborate presentations fashioned for them during the great age of collecting.” (The Bloomsbury Review)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 73 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
It is a chaotic world out there. It would be nice to bring that chaotic world in to a room, or even into a cabinet, and sort it all out, top to bottom. There have been those who have tried this, collectors who aspired to gathering parts of the world that would sum it all up, and place them together so that those parts could reflect upon each other. This quixotic aim is beautifully depicted in a big illustrated book, _Cabinets of Curiosities_ (Thames & Hudson) by Patrick Mauriès. You can look at the lavish illustrations here, and gain a bit of understanding of the obsessions of the collector, and you might look around your own relatively meager curios, and recognize some envy.
Mauriès speculates that the precursors of such cabinets were the relic collections in medieval churches. Such collections might have started with supposed pieces of saints or of the True Cross, but eventually included bizarre tangents like a vial of milk from the breast of the Virgin, or the rod used by Moses. The magical air of such a collection, but these cabinets were secular, built not by monks, but by kings and other wealthy men. As collectors perfected their assemblies, they sought out rarities, and this tended to make the collections full of idiosyncratic freaks. These sorts of marvels were to fill the viewer with wonder, but tastes in such things change. As the eighteenth century approached, wonder itself was regarded as a "low, bumptious form of pleasure," a credulousness which was out of place with scientific enquiry. Mauriès demonstrates that even though the collectors tried to emphasize relationships between the items in the cabinets, the surrealists were equally good at assembling items whose conjunctions would be without meaning.
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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Merrily Baird on July 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Patrick Mauries' "Cabinets of Curiosities" is a study of rooms of wonder. Built during the Baroque Age in Europe, these rooms--sometimes large chambers and in other cases simply elaborate cabinets--held the natural and mechanical treasures that wealthy collectors assembled, often in an attempt to structure for themselves an entire universe. Consistent with the sumptuous nature of these collections and the complex manner in which they were displayed, "Cabinets of Curiosities" is distinguished above all by its color photography, its complex design scheme, and a use of cropping and perspective that give the reader a sense of personally entering the collection spaces shown.
Because of its size, focus on photography, and price, "Cabinets of Curiosities" could easily be dismissed as a coffee-table book for the few. However, its appeal should be broader. The instinct to collect and to categorize-- even if it involves only seashells found on the beach, leaves fallen in a forest, or unusual stones found around the home-- is universal. Transcending time and space, collecting and categorizing are fundamental in particular to the sense of wonder and process of learning that define childhood.
"Cabinets of Curiosities" can help us to see anew and celebrate anew the complexities and fascination of the animate and inanimate worlds about us. In these circumstances, it is particularly disappointing that the text is so lightweight in comparison to the photographs and that the confusing movement among typefaces makes it difficult to track the text. Mauries is to be congratulated for his bold thinking in fashioning this book and making it so beautiful. If he had devoted an equal amount of effort to researching, explaining, and documenting his subject matter, "Cabinets of Curiosities" would have risen to the ranks of a publishing classic.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Flora Fauna on June 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Oh for a copy editor. This is a beautiful book, a delight to the senses. But the text contains too many careless errors. Mauriès misspells, for example, both the name Linnaeus and the title of his famous book, Systema Naturae.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By LD TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is an oversized book with every page having a sketch, color drawing, or color photograph. There are even fold-out pages so you can explore up close. The commentary provides an in-depth understanding of what was valued and why. Our mindset is different from these collectors so it is of value to read about their perspective before seeing many of the surviving objects now displayed in museums and palaces.

P.25 "The founding secret that lay at the heart of cabinets of curiosities was thus dual in nature: their intention was not merely to define, discover and possess the rare and the unique, but also to inscribe them within a special setting which would instill in them layers of meaning."

Medieval churches collected and were famous for religious artifacts. Starting with the Medici family, monarchs and the rich began to collect the unusual in nature (stuffed animals, sea shells, dried plants, paintings of birds, skeletons), historical objects (some became a part of a much larger, more decorative work of artistic craftsmen), and mechanical clocks and moving figurines. They were fascinated by the world outside of their travels- the Americas, Africa, the Orient.

This review cannot begin to cover what you will see in these pages. Even the cabinetry is a work of art. These collections broadened the understanding of how the earth and universe worked and dispelled many myths.

To view many more of the objects and associated works of craftsmanship, I encourage you to read Princely Treasures by von Habsburg and Treasures of the Medici by Massinelli. I own both of those books and love the photos.
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