The Illustrated Catalogue of the Natural History

Jacobaeus, Oliger (1650-1701)

Muséum Regium Seu Catalogus Rerum tam naturalium, quàm artificialium, Quæ In Baslilica Bibliothecæ Augustissimi Daniæ Norvegiæq; Monarchæ Christiani Qvinti Hafniæ asservantur, Descriptus Ab Oligero Jacobæo, Me. & Phil. Prof. Regio.

Copenhagen: Joachim Schmetgen, 1696


Folio: 35 x 23 cm. )(4 [includes the engraved frontispiece], )(4, A-Z4, Aa-Bb4, Cc-Dd2. With 37 added engraved plates.


Bound in contemporary sprinkled calf, the spine tooled in blind, with light wear. The contents are in excellent condition with the faintest amount of staining. The plates are in fine condition.

The Royal Danish Kunstkammer was founded by King Frederick III in 1650 and was continued by his son, Christian V (1646-1699), to whom this book is dedicated. The Kunstkammer existed until 1825 when its collections were dispersed among the many specialized museums created around that time. This catalogue is an invaluable illustrated record of the collections as they stood in the 17th century. The author, the comparative anatomist Oliger Jacobaeus taught philosophy, history, geography and medicine at Copenhagen. He was also the son-in-law of the physician and anatomist Thomas Bartholin.

The museum catalogue is divided into two parts. The first part contains seven sections, describing mummies, elephant teeth, skulls, horns, antlers, birds, asteroids, fishes, reptiles, shells, snakes, insects, plants, minerals and stones. The second part consists of five sections, describing precious objects made from gold, silver, bone, stone etc., weapons and instruments of cultures worldwide, relics from antiquity, mechanical and optical instruments, and a numismatic collection, from which 184 pieces are shown.

The 37 plates are the work of J. Erichsonig after B. Grothschilling and depict an array of artifacts and specimens (see above). In addition to the large plates, each of the chapters is illustrated with a decorative headpiece, tailpiece, and large engraved initial illustrated according to the category of artifact included in that chapter. For example, for Section I, “On Humans & Quadrupeds”, the initial depicts a sarcophagus opened to reveal its occupant; the headpiece shows an array of animals and animal skeletons with pride-of-place given to a human skeleton flanked by elephant tusks and dissected fetal corpses. The whole scene is festooned with garlands of claws, hooves, and human hands.

Balsinger p.141 and 279-80; Brunet III, p. 479; Murray, II, p. 190; Nissen ZBI, 2081; Ward & Carozzi, 1676; Wilson, The History of Mineral Collecting, p. 209, only citing 18 plates. See: “Det Kongelige danske Kunstkammer 1737 = The Royal Danish Kunstkammer 1737”, Bente Gundestrup (Copenhagen: 1991)