Holophusicon, the Leverian Museum: An Eighteenth-Century English Institution of Science, Curiosity, and Art


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Published by Museum fur Volkerkunde and ZKF Publishers.
Distributed in the US by Bishop Museum Press.

The Holophusicon (“embracing all of nature”) or Leverian Museum was the world’s first popular museum of science, curiosity, and art going back to 1771. Its contents included the largest collection of Cook-voyage specimens and objects ever exhibited in one place, in addition to sculptured heads from the Cave of Elephanta in India, Oliver Cromwell’s armor, the Turkish clothing and guns of Edward Wortly Montague, birds, fossils, an minerals. After occupying a beautiful mansion in Leicester Square, London, the collection was put up for lottery and moved to Blackfriars Bridge. In 1806 the contents were sold at auction in some 7,000 lots, bought by more than 140 purchasers.

This book tells the remarkable story of this extraordinary collection and follows these important objects through numerous hands to public and private collections around the world, including museums in Vienna, Berlin, London, Cambridge, Liverpool, Exeter, Honolulu, Sydney, Wellington, Christchurch, and the United States. Author Adrienne L. Kaeppler is curator of Oceanic ethnology at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Her decades of detective work encompassed museum collections, libraries, and archives, resulting in a book that includes nearly 1,000 color photographs of objects and specimens, as well as hundreds of eighteenth-century watercolors of them by Leverian artist Sarah Stone.

Written by Adrienne L. Kaeppler
Date of Publication: 2011
Size: 9.5 x 11.5 in.
Pages: 320
Binding: paper
ISBN: 9783981162042