“Sole Edition of the Catalogue of Worm’s Celebrated Wunderkammer

Worm, Ole (1588-1654)

Museum Wormianum. Seu historia rerum rariorum, tam naturalium, quam artificialium, tam domesticarum, quam exoticarum, quae Hafniae Danorum in aedibus authoris servantur. Adornata ab Olao Worm, Med. Doct. E, in Regia Hasniensi Academia, olim Professore publico. Variis & accuratis Iconibus illustrata.

Leiden: Ex Officina Elseviriorum, Acad. Typograph, 1655


Folio: 35.2 x 22 cm. pp [xii] 389 [3], Collation: *6, A-Z4; Aa-Zz4; Aaa-Ccc4. With an added engraved portrait and folding engraved title page/frontispiece.


Bound in contemporary vellum. Complete with the engraved portrait and the folding engraved view of the museum.

The catalogue of the celebrated Wunderkammer of the Danish physician Ole Worm (1588-1654). This copy is complete with the added engraved portrait of the author and the famous folding engraving of Worm’s museum, both by Wingendorp. The text is illustrated with 139 woodcuts and 13 engravings of minerals, plants, animals and human artifacts. The work is divided into four books: 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 (including a raccoon, narwhal, walrus, the first depiction of the great auk, and the first detailed depiction of the bird of paradise, showing that it did indeed have feet); Book IV: man-made artifacts and material culture.

“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).

“A gifted polymath, Worm collected many types of objects, especially those of natural history and man-made artifacts, which he carefully arranged and classified, following a rigorous method. He also prepared a detailed catalog, published in 1655 by his son William. His museum, which became one of the great attractions of Copenhagen, included the skull of a narwhal properly described; previously narwhal tusks had been supposed to be the horns of unicorns. There were many prehistoric stone implements, but Worm did not conclude that they belonged to a stone age and were artifacts; he labeled them "Cerauniae”, so called because they are thought to fall to earth in flashes of lightning- a belief widely held at that time. This is curious, because Worm recognized the tip of a stone harpoon point embedded in a marine animal found in Greenland, and also knew of stone tools and weapons from America. On his death, Worm's museum passed to King Frederik III and was installed in the old castle at Copenhagen” (Glyn Daniel in DSB).

"Worm's collection took shape between 1620 and his death in 1654. His last great work was the folio volume 'Museum Wormianum' printed in Leiden and Amsterdam and issued the year after his death. It 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).

"There were some mouth-watering items in this early museum, including a Great Auk which Worm had once kept as a pet. The year after he died a folio volume describing his treasure was published and 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).

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