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Cabinet of Curiosities…


Satyra altera species

Monstrorum Historia, (Bologna, 1642)

Author: ALDROVANDI, Ulisse (1522-1605)

Aldrovandi was a prodigious writer of natural history. His book on monsters, profusely illustrated with marvellous woodcuts of monsters in the human, animal and vegetable realms, forms part of his great encyclopoedic work on natural history complete in thrirteen thick volumes, of which only four were published during his lifetime. His valuable teratological work is by far the most exahaustive treatise on monsters with descriptions and depictions of all kinds of monstrosities. Even if the woodcuts often are fanciful or largely inaccurate they exceeded a considerable influence and became the prototypes for succeeding illustrators of monsters.

The Hagströmerbiblioteket– the Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library— is a treasure trove of unique medical art treasures.  In order to make their holdings more accessible, they’ve created the Wunderkammer (“Cabinet of Wonders”)– at once a glorious collection of historically-important (and often strikingly strange) medical and scientific illustrations , and an homage to the European Renaissance tradition of “The Cabinet of Curiosities.”

Prothesis, artificial leg

Les Oeuvres. Quatrième édition, (Paris, 1585)
Author: PARÉ, Ambroise (1510-1590)

Paré was a French barber surgeon and the official Royal Surgeon for four successive French kings. He is considered one of the fathers of modern surgery, and a leader of surgical techniques. His collective works were published in several editions, a book of over 1000 pages richly illustrated with woodcuts and among them his inventions of both artificial hands and legs.


Physiognomice Pathologica – Krankenphysiognomik, (Stuttgart, 1859)
Author: BAUMGÄRTNER, Karl Heinrich (1798-1886)  Artist: Karl Sandhaas

A remarkable atlas with portraits of patients suffering from various diseases. Baumgärtner, professor of medicine in Freiburg, taught it was possible to make a correct diagnosis with accompanying medical treatment by studying the patient’s physiognomy, the expression of the face, the colour of the skin, the eyes, the lips, etc.

Tour the full collection at The Wunderkammer.  (And for a look at what’s become of the “Cabinet of Curiosities” in our times, check out Joesph Cornell’s boxes (here or here)– better yet, visit the extraordinary Museum of Jurassic Technology… or if L.A. isn’t handy, read Lawrence Wechsler’s extraordinary Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder.)

[Thanks to AH, via EWW]


As we self-diagnose, we might recall that it was on this date in 1878 that Charles Sédillot received approval from the editor of the 1886 edition of the Dictionary of Medicine, Emile Littré, to name certain micro-organisms “microbe”– rather than, say, “microbia”– even though “microbe” is coined from two Greek words that together mean “short-lived” rather than “small life.”




Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 26, 2013 at 1:01 am

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