495 pages, 200 colour & 100 b/w photos and illustrations
This beautiful book reveals the fascinating history of the cabinet of curiosities belonging to the Cobbe family, who created it around 1750 at Newbridge House (Co. Dublin) and developed it over the following century. Now housed at Hatchlands Park, Surrey, it has changed so little since 1850 that it offers a time-capsule – virtually unique in its survival – of a private cabinet from the period of the Enlightenment, a type of collection that would once have been common in country houses throughout Britain but which has been all but lost to view.
The enormous range of surviving objects and specimens (including ethnographic and other man-made specimens, antiquities, natural history, geology) is illustrated by specially commissioned photographs of the collection and has been catalogued by scholars in the respective fields who discuss also the place of the cabinet of curiosities in Enlightenment society, the history of the Cobbe family and the impact of its members on the nature and extent of the cabinet, as well as the uniquely surviving display cabinets constructed in the 1780s, in which the collection continues to be displayed.
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Arthur MacGregor was, until his retirement in 2008, senior assistant keeper in the Department of Antiquities, Ashmolean Museum. Oxford, and is an expert in the history of collecting. Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.