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An Infinity of Things: How Sir Henry Wellcome Collected the World

Biography / MemoirOut of Print

By: Frances Larson

343 pages, 8pp colour plates, 30 figs

Oxford University Press

Hardback | Sep 2009 | #181220 | ISBN-13: 9780199554461
Out of Print Details

About this book

Tells the story of one of the largest private collections ever created, and the life of the man behind it. Wellcome planned a great museum filled with treasures from all corners of the globe, charting the history of human health from prehistory to the present day. The breadth of his vision was matched only by the depth of his pockets. During the opening decades of the twentieth century he acquired a collection so large that later generations of staff took to describing its contents by the ton. But Wellcome's museum was never finished, and his collection was still stored in vast warehouses when he died, unseen and incomplete.

Today, after decades of work by his successors, artefacts from the collection can be seen in museums and libraries throughout the world. Demonstrating what can happen when a collector's aspirations are left unconstrained by wealth, Frances Larson explores Wellcome's life through his possessions, revealing the many tensions in his character: between his talents as a businessman and his desire for scholarly recognition; his curiosity and his perfectionism; and his philanthropic aspirations and his drive for personal glory.

Eccentric behaviour makes for great reading and Henry Wellcome's biography will have you mesmerised. Patrick Neale, Bookseller Choice People...will be garanteed pleasure and delight from this quirky biography. Patrick Neale, Bookseller's Choice


1. Quite indescribable disorder; PART ONE: ROOTS; 2. Herewith please find three rolls of chocolate foil; 3. A very full and complete volume; 4. The ideal of my heart; PART TWO: TACTICS; 5. An historical exhibition of rare and curious objects; 6. Excuse me Mr Treve; 7. Fellow feeling as a collector; 8. The whole of India should be ransacked; 9. An impossible man to deal with; PART THREE: OUTCOMES; 10. The finest historical medical museum in the world; 11. When the whole is complete, it will be an exact facsimile of the original; 12. This is the History of Medicine; 13. All tied up in knots; 14. We need very complete collections of all their fabrications; 15. This International Historical Museum; PART FOUR: LEGACIES; 16. Shelve it; 17. Ingrained habits of cautiousness; 18. Sir Henry Wellcome is dead; 19. Honour to whom honour is due; Notes; Bibliography; Index

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