Collecting nature within nature – animal inclusings in Amber in Early Modern Collections, or “Miniture marvels of nature” - NMS Research Repository
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Book chapter

Collecting nature within nature – animal inclusings in Amber in Early Modern Collections, or “Miniture marvels of nature”

1 August 2014

Abstract

When the French diplomat Charles Ogier saw frogs and lizards embedded in amber for sale during his visit to Danzig in November 1635 he called them “miniature miracles of nature.” With rare exceptions, few of these objects—copiously documented in inventories of the time—have actually survived. Instead, we must depend on Michele Mercati’s Metallotheca(1717), Sendel’s Historia Succinorum (1742) and contemporary “scientific” watercolours for an idea of their appearance. Such publications and drawings not only record their appearance but also further document their presence in collections. What was it that made the inclusion in amber so attractive to the early modern collector? Was it the body preserved within, the baffling ability of the material to preserve it, or the pleasure of owning a piece of poetry, this genre of object having been immortalised by Martial in his Epigrams? Or, indeed, something quite different? This chapter explores the collecting of nature within nature.

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