is appropriately timed (well, appropriate if you are in Austria
in the next six weeks anyway) --- the first-ever full-scale survey
dedicated to the proto-Surrealist’s work is currently on display
at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (ends 1 June 2008).
Addit: see Guardian Arts story: 'Natural Wonders'
German scholar Adam Olearius (1603-1671) is remembered because of his diplomatic activities on behalf of his home state of Holstein. He was part of two ambassadorial delegations that visited Russia and later, Persia, seeking to establish an overland trade route to Persia.
The commercial aims of the journeys were largely unsuccessful but Olearius afterwards published his detailed observations in a travel book that had several editions and translations and which introduced Europe to Persian culture.
Beyond his diplomatic envoy role, Olearius was employed by Duke Frederick III of Holstein-Gottorp in a number of functionary positions. As librarian he helped expand the book and manuscript holdings of the Duke and as keeper of the Cabinet of Curiosities, Olearius purchased key regional collections and saw to it that Oriental specimens were included in the exhibit.
- Hence, according to the custom of the time, Olearius published a catalogue of the Duke's collection or Kunstkammer in 1666: 'Gottorffische Kunst-Kammer, worinnen allerhand ungemeine Sachen' is most easily accessible from Strasbourg Universities Library. (once you load the book, click on the folder icon top left to get thumbnail images) This is the 1673 edition from which all the above (extensively cleaned) example images were chosen. These constitute perhaps two thirds of the illustrations in the book and, as usual, Strasbourg have enormous jpeg images available.
- Wolfenbüttel Library has both the original edition of 'Gottorffische Kunst-Kammer' (and legend volume) as well as a 1674 edition incorporating both illustration and text. (I mention these mostly because the quality of illustration varies between editions: it's a matter of personal taste).
- Some of the specimens illustrated in the engraved plates looked familiar to me - they were copied from the Besler catalogue seen previously.
- Wolfenbüttel Library also has a copy of Olearius' famous book from 1647 about his Persian travels, 'Offt begehrte Beschreibung Der Newen Orientalischen Reise' (it's illustrated, but I haven't had a close look).
- An html version of the travel book in english is available from the University of Washington (Silk Road collection).
- Adam Olearius at Wikipedia.
- Thanks to Septentrio for telling me about Olearius some months ago.