Leiden: Ex Officina Elseviriorum, Acad. Typograph. 1655.
Folio: 36.5 x 22.8 cm. [xii] 389  pp. Collation: *6, A-Z4; Aa-Zz4; Aaa-Ccc4. With an added engraved portrait and folding engraved title page/frontispiece.
SOLE EDITION, LEIDEN ISSUE.
Bound in contemporary vellum. An exceptionally broad-margined copy, complete with the added engraved portrait of the author (by Carel van Mander), and the iconic folding engraving of Worm’s museum, both engraved by G. Wingendorp. The text, portrait, and folding plate in excellent, fresh condition. Short worm-trail in lower margin of sigs. P-Y, far from text. Another occurring later, also far from the text. Light spotting to lvs. Ii1-2. G1 with irregular margin. The text is illustrated with 139 woodcuts and 13 engravings of minerals, plants, animals (including the first accurate image of a complete bird-of-paradise) and artifacts (“artificiosa”).
The catalogue of the celebrated collection of the Danish physician, natural historian, runologist, and antiquarian Ole Worm (1588-1654), published one year after Worm’s death and based on the author’s academic lectures. The book was edited by Jan de Laet with the publication overseen by Worm’s son, Villum (1633-1704).
The work is divided into four books, organized according to the three kingdoms of nature, with the fourth comprising “artificialia” (i.e. artifacts and material culture).
Book I: fossils and stones, including gems, metals and magnets; Book II: plants, including a number of New World varieties (among them the pineapple, palm tree and peanut plant); Book III: animals (such as the narwhal and walrus), again with New World specimens (including a raccoon and the first detailed depiction of the bird-of-paradise, showing that it did indeed have feet);
Book IV: the inventions of humankind, drawn from cultures from all parts of the world, including a Chinese scale, an Indian sword, a small bronze horse (formerly used, Worm tells us, by two Danish witches to magically affect fishing), New World arrows and tobacco pipes, and two fascinating automata. The first is a mechanical mouse, carved from wood and covered with hide, operated by a clock-work mechanism. The second is a human figure with flexible limbs operated by a wheel, which can run around and pick things up. This mechanical man is represented in the frontispiece engraving (See Hafstein, Bodies of knowledge: Ole Worm & Collecting in late Renaissance Scandinavia).
“The splendid double-page view of the museum shows the actual arrangement of the specimens on open shelves with boxes and trays of shells, minerals, stones, rare earths and animal bones, the larger specimens on higher shelves mixed up with bronzes, antiquities and ethnographic objects, racks of spears and utensils, horns and antlers and stuffed animals hang on the walls and from the ceiling are suspended large fish, a polar bear and a Greenland kayak.” (Grinke, From Wunderkammer to Museum).
The origins of Worm’s collection date to his academic tour of Europe (1605-1613), during which he studied philosophy and medicine at some of the great universities (Marburg, Giessen, Strasbourg, Basel, and Padua.) Worm visited many of the great art collections, botanical gardens, and libraries of Europe, as well as the private collections of notable physicians and naturalists.
While studying at Padua, he visited the private museum of the apothecary Ferrante Imperato in Naples, whose natural history collection achieved international renown in 1599 with the publication of an illustrated catalogue, the first catalogue of a private collection to be published. At Bologna, Worm toured the botanical garden and encyclopedic natural history collection of the great naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi (d. 1605), the publication of whose 13-volume, illustrated catalogue of natural history was nearing completion.
During these years abroad, Worm acquired objects that would one day grace his own collection, including New World rarities. When he returned to Denmark and began his teaching career at the University of Copenhagen, Worm set about his collecting in earnest, as he tells us in his letter to the reader, “From the moment I first began to teach natural history at this royal academy, I did not refrain from any expense of trouble, but started to collect a not inconsiderable treasury of natural objects.”
In order to amplify his nascent collection, Worm relied on the network of contacts that he had developed on his travels, a network that included such figures as Athanasius Kircher, Jan de Laet, Isaac Lapeyrère, Caspar Bartholin, Caspar Bauhin, Bernard Paludanus, and Fabri de Peiresc. His letters, in which he and his correspondents discuss the exchange and interpretation of objects, are a valuable record of these relationships and the development of the collection. As his collection developed, Worm also produced two printed inventories, both unillustrated (1642 and 1645) and both very rare.
Worm meant for the objects in his collections to be handled. Writing in 1639, Worm explained, “As to the display of the curiosities in my museum, I have not yet completed it. I have collected various things on my journeys abroad, and from India and other very remote places I have been brought various things…. That I conserve with the goal of, along with a short presentation of the various things’ history, also being able to present to my audience with the things themselves, to touch with their own hands and to see with their own eyes, so that they may themselves judge how that which is said fits with the things, and can acquire a more intimate knowledge of them all.”
"Worm's 'Museum Wormianum' has secured his name as one of the founders not only of Danish but also of European museums. The typographical model of the book was Piso and Markgraf's publication of the 'Historia Naturalis Brasiliae' from which some of the illustrations were also taken. But the best of them were made in Copenhagen from drawings made under Worm’s own supervision. This is true of the frontispiece showing the interior of his museum, from which many single objects are still identifiable. The arrangement of the material followed the principles of Imperato and Calceolari.”(Impey & MacGregor, The Origins of Museums, p. 123).
“Upon his death, Worm's museum was bought by King Frederick III (1609-1670) who used it as the foundation for his Royal Kunstkammer. Unfortunately, today Worm's museum no longer exists as it did during his day. During his lifetime it was located on the street known as Skiderstrade, today Kystalgade, where today we find the Central Public Library of the City of Copenhagen (Hovedbibliotek), a few blocks from the famous Round Tower in Copenhagen's so-called Latin Quarter. The little that remains of Worm's collection today is to be found in Copenhagen's Zoological Museum and in the Museum of Natural History.”(Chabrán)
"Ten of its pages are devoted to shells, his nomenclature and classification being taken from the works of Gesner, Aldrovandi and Rondelet, the principal divisions of univalves, bivalves and turbinates being fundamentally Aristotelian" (Dance 14).
The portrait, from a painting by the Dutch-born Danish court painter Karel van Mander III (1610-1672), features verses by Worm’s nephew, the Danish physician and anatomist Thomas Bartholin (1616-1680); and the Dutch Golden Age poet and composer Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687).
Nissen ZBI 4473; Cobres p. 98 n. 2; Eales 456; Dance 358; Wilson, The history of mineral collecting p. 199; Willems 772; Rahir, Elzeviers, no. 777; Copinger, no. 5354; Balsinger, Barbara Jeanne. The Kunst- und Wunderkammern. A Catalogue Raisonné of Collecting in Germany, France and England, 1565-1750. For the portrait, R. Burgess, Portraits of doctors & scientists in the Wellcome Institute, London 1973, no. 3235.3