The Rare Catalogue of the Kunst- und Wunderkammer of Frederick III – With an Image of the Museum Interior

Olearius, Adam (1599-1671); Paludanus, Bernardus (1550-1633)

Gottorffische Kunst-Kammer, Worinnen allerhand ungemeine Sachen, so theils die Natur, theils künstliche Hände hervor gebracht und bereitet. Von diesem aus allen vier Theilen der Welt zusammen getragen. Jetzo beschreiben durch Adam Olearius, Bibliothecarius und Antiquarius auff der Fürstl. Residenz Gottorf...

Schleswig: auff Gottfriedt Schultzens Kosten, 1674


Quarto: 19 x 16.1 cm. Two parts in one volume. Kunst-Kammer: [x], 80 p. With an added engraved frontispiece and 37 plates; Chronic: [iv] 148 [8] pp. ; 72 [4] p. With an engraved folding plate. Collations: I. A4, b2, A-K4. II. π2, a-t4, u2, A-I4, K2.

SECOND EDITION, with the first edition of the second part.

Bound in contemporary speckled calf (minor wear, corners bumped), the spine richly tooled in gold. Small ink smudges to margins of frontis., one just entering the image; other occasional light stains. The text of the Wunderkammer catalogue is in very good condition, with the expected light toning. The genealogy book has some light browning and a mend to the fold of the folding plate.

The illustrated catalogue of the Kunst- und Wunderkammer of Frederick III, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, is one of the rarest of all Wunderkammer books. Frederick had purchased the famous Kunst-kammer of the Dutch physician Bernardus Paludanus from his heirs in 1651, using Adam Olearius (1603-1671) as intermediary, and brought it to his castle at Gottorf, north of Schleswig. This edition also contains a second work: a genealogy of the House of Schleswig-Holstein, illustrated with a genealogical tree.
The Wunderkammer:

The frontispiece depicts the Kunst- und Wunderkammer as seen through a portal flanked by two mannequins, one of them wearing a suit of armor brought from Ceylon for display. Inside the museum one can glimpse Egyptian statues, a narwhal horn, taxidermy (fish, marine mammals, and what appears to be an impossibly massive chameleon) hanging from the ceiling, tables with shells, as well as snakes slithering on the floor, and a Russian icon of St. Nicolas. The 37 engraved plates

“The Gottorf Kunstkammer is of great interest, as it incorporated the famous cabinet of Paludanus of Enkhuysen who had travelled widely in the East. The cabinet was acquired for the Duke by Olearius who had himself travelled in Russia and Persia in the 1630s, and became the ducal librarian and keeper of the cabinet in 1649. "The ethnographic collection is particularly important and included Inuit artifacts from Greenland, such as kayaks and costumes, an unusual runic calendar, and an idol from the Davis Straits decorated with feathers. The costumes appear to have been displayed on suitably ethnic models and range from Chinese, Persian and Tartar costumes to a suit of armor from Ceylon and a Mexican woman’s skirt, necklace of animal’s teeth, and headdress. A Russian icon of St. Nicolas and two Russian costumes must have been acquired by Olearius on his journey there in 1633-5. Other treasures included a range of Egyptian figures, a mummy, and an Indian Buddha. One plate illustrates four paintings of portrait heads, representations of the seasons, cleverly composed of fruit, flowers and vegetables, which are quite possibly by the hand of Arcimboldo himself, although not so attributed by Olearius. The large natural-history collection included specimens from Africa and South America with a variety of horns and antlers, swordfish, squid and turtles, birds of paradise and exotic creatures of every description, shells, coral and fossils.” (Grinke, From Wunderkammer to Museum n 42, 1674 edition)

According to Ekman, the costumes were displayed on mechanical mannequins (The birth of the museum in the Nordic countries, Kunstkammer, museology and museography, p. 11). Another highlight was the Gottorf globe, predecessor to the modern planetarium, and which now, thanks to Peter the Great, resides in the Kunstkammer Museum in St. Petersburg. By the mid eighteenth century the Gottorf Kunstkammer had been annexed to the royal Danish Collection.

The author:

Adam Olearius (German name, Adam Ölschläger) first arrived at the court of Duke Frederick III in 1639, and was appointed court mathematician and librarian. He is also remembered for 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 Offt begehrte Beschreibung Der Newen Orientalischen Reise 1647.

The “Gottorffische Kunst-Kammer” is here bound together with Olearius’ two part history of the Duchy, Holsteinische Chronica aus des Herrn Christian Solini, (pp. 72, [4]) together with his continuation, (though here bound first in the volume) Kurtzer Begreiff einer Holsteinischen Chronic (pp. [iv], 148, [8]), both dated 1674. The double-page frontispiece is a genealogical tree of the Oldenburgh dukes of Schleswig-Holstein, stemming from Christian I of Denmark.

Balsiger, Kunst und Wunderkammern, A Catalogue Raisonné of Collecting in Germany, France and England, 1565-1750, (1970) p. 636, 650 and 824; Bruun, Bibliotheca Danica, II, 160; Dünnhaupt, Bibliographisches Handbuch der Barockliterature, p. 1318; Goedeke II, 65, 12; Grolier 25; Grinke 42; MacGregor, Tradescant’s Rarities, p. 77; Murray, Museums, their history and their use, I. p. 96, 145 and III. p. 64; Schuh, Mineralogy, II. p. 1107/3574; Von Schlosser, Die Kunst- und Wunderkammern der Spätrenaissance, pp. 85-8. Cobres I p 116 n 2; Grinke 42, and Fearrington, Rooms of Wonder, Grolier Club n 25