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Collecting Across Cultures

Material Exchanges in the Early Modern Atlantic World

Edited by Daniela Bleichmar and Peter C. Mancall

Publication Year: 2011

In the early modern age more people traveled farther than at any earlier time in human history. Many returned home with stories of distant lands and at least some of the objects they acquired during their journeys. And those who did not travel eagerly acquired wondrous materials that arrived from faraway places. Objects traveled various routes—personal, imperial, missionary, or trade—and moved not only across space but also across cultures.

Histories of the early modern global culture of collecting have focused for the most part on European Wunderkammern, or "cabinets of curiosities." But the passion for acquiring unfamiliar items rippled across many lands. The court in Java marveled at, collected, and displayed myriad goods brought through its halls. African princes traded captured members of other African groups so they could get the newest kinds of cloth produced in Europe. Native Americans sought colored glass beads made in Europe, often trading them to other indigenous groups. Items changed hands and crossed cultural boundaries frequently, often gaining new and valuable meanings in the process. An object that might have seemed mundane in some cultures could become a target of veneration in another.

The fourteen essays in Collecting Across Cultures represent new work by an international group of historians, art historians, and historians of science. Each author explores a specific aspect of the cross-cultural history of collecting and display from the dawn of the sixteenth century to the early decades of the nineteenth century. As the essays attest, an examination of early modern collecting in cross-cultural contexts sheds light on the creative and complicated ways in which objects in collections served to create knowledge—some factual, some fictional—about distant peoples in an increasingly transnational world.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: The Early Modern Americas


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pp. vii-ix

List of Illustrations

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pp. xi-xiv

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pp. xv-xvi

The publication of Collecting Across Cultures marks a significant moment within the history of collecting as it has developed as a distinctive discipline over the previous quarter century. But what of its lineage? The generally acknowledged starting point for this area of study was Julius von Schlosser’s Die Kunst- und Wunderkammern der Spätrenaisssance, published in 1908, with its analysis of...

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pp. 1-11

Soon after Hern


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Chapter 1. Seeing the World in a Room: Looking at Exotica in Early Modern Collections

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pp. 15-30

The large collection compiled by Vincencio Juan de Lastanosa (1607–81) in his residence in Huesca, a city in the Spanish region of Aragon, included an impressive range of objects.1 Lastanosa, a minor nobleman interested in antiquities, coins, and the arts, is best remembered today for his patronage of the celebrated writer Baltazar Gracián(1601–58). Lastanosa’s collection attests to his interest in...

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Chapter 2. Collecting Global Icons: The Case of the Exotic Parasol

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pp. 31-57

Do palm trees grow in New England? Fanciful and incongruous as this horticultural proposition may seem, it was seriously contemplated by early modern Europeans, particularly those who amassed materials depicting the exotic world—those who ‘‘collected across cultures.’’ Such materials were produced abundantly in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, and they circu-...

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Chapter 3. Ancient Europe and Native Americans: A Comparative Reflection on the Roots of Antiquarianism

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pp. 58-79

Antiquity embodied a horizon of thought that obsessed European curiosity from the Renaissance through the Enlightenment. The Greeks, the Romans, and even the Egyptians were omnipresent in the discourses of philologists, in the scholarly research of antiquarians, and in the obsession of men of state and even sovereigns. We owe the discovery of Herculaneum and Pompei to Ber-...


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Chapter 4. Aztec Regalia and the Reformation of Display

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pp. 83-98

After Hernán Cortés shipped the first cargos of gold, silver, gems, and feather treasure from Mexico to Europe, they were viewed with marvel and admiration. The treasure was a gift from the conquistador to Charles V, king of Castile and elected Holy Roman Emperor. Albrecht Dürer’s delighted view of these objects, at Charles’s court in Brussels in August 1520, is often quoted:...

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Chapter 5. Dead Natures or Still Lifes? Science, Art, and Collecting in the Spanish Baroque

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pp. 99-115

This work arises from an inquiry concerning two of the most influential intellectual enterprises of the seventeenth century: the new sciences and baroque culture. Equally imprecise in terms of definition and historiographical characterization, both projects shared a somewhat similar social, political, and cultural background. Historians of science, however, seem to have overlooked many of...

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Chapter 6. Crying a Muck: Collecting, Domesticity, and Anomie in Seventeenth-Century Banten and England

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pp. 116-133

According to Bernard Bailyn, we owe our concept of the Atlantic world to an article by Walter Lippmann in the New Republic from February 1917, encouraging the United States to enter the Great War and defend the integrity of this early modern construction. Compared with that piece, ‘‘Some Jacobean Links...

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Chapter 7. Collecting and Translating Knowledge Across Cultures: Capuchin Missionary Images of Early Modern Central Africa, 1650–1750

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pp. 134-154

This essay analyzes the role played by images in the collection and communication of knowledge across cultures in the context of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Central Africa. It is based on the study of a set of illustrated manuscripts created between approximately 1650 and 1750 by Capuchin friar missionaries to the West Central African Kingdom of Kongo and Portuguese colony of Angola....

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Chapter 8. European Wonders at the Court of Siam

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pp. 155-174

With this fragment of dialogue begins the likewise fragmentary journal of Ok-Phra Wisut Sunthon, known more familiarly as Kosa Pan, Siamese ambassador to France in 1686–87.1 The next event in his narration, ‘‘Those ladies then departed,’’ allows us to reconstruct the scene. Kosa Pan is aboard the Oiseau, the ship that has brought him and two coadjutants from Siam on a diplomatic...


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Chapter 9. Collecting and Accounting: Representing Slaves as Commodities in Jamaica, 1674–1784

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pp. 177-191

When Thomas Thistlewood died in late November 1786, he was eulogized in an obituary in the Cornwall Gazette on December 16, 1786 as follows:
In Westmoreland, on Thursday the 30th of November, in the 65th year of his age, Thomas Thistlewood, Esq., a gentleman whose social qualities, during a residence of upwards of thirty years in that parish, had greatly...

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Chapter 10. ''Collecting Americans'': The Anglo-American Experience from Cabot to NAGPRA

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pp. 192-213

In the early modern era, some European visitors to the Western Hemisphere thought they would take indigenous Americans home with them. Christopher Columbus was the first to do so, but soon after, Sebastian Cabot did the same thing, as did many Europeans who traveled to the Americas before the mid-eighteenth century. Historians have tended ...


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Chapter 11. Spanish Collections of Americana in the Late Eighteenth Century

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pp. 217-235

This essay surveys some of the many late eighteenth-century collections of Spanish Americana, attempting whenever possible to match extant objects that are held today in contemporary museums to the inventories and textual descriptions that survive from when they were originally gathered. Although archaeological curiosities were shipped from the Indies to Europe before the eighteenth...

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Chapter 12. Mart

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pp. 236-253

As bishop of the intendancy of Trujillo, Peru, during the 1780s, the Basque priest Baltasar Jaime Martínez Compañón y Bujanda (1737–97) created what was surely the most systematic and best-documented collection of natural history and pre-Columbian art and artifacts assembled in late eighteenth-century Peru.1 In 1788 and 1790, the bishop sent box upon box of flora, fauna, metals...

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Chapter 13. Europe Rediscovers Latin America: Collecting Artifacts and Views in the First Decades of the Nineteenth Century

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pp. 254-268

The disciplines of anthropology and archaeology underwent a spectacular development in the nineteenth century: the entire world could now be studied and classified. A major focus of this ambitious scientific project was the Americas. The artifacts and images that explorers and collectors brought back from the Americas documented peoples and cultures that were profoundly different from...

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Chapter 14. Image and Experience in the Land of Nopal and Maguey: Collecting and Portraying Mexico in Two Nineteenth-Century French Albums

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pp. 269-288

These words mark the beginning of Mexique, 1865, an album of Louis Falconnet,a French officer in Emperor Maximilian’s military cabinet during the French ‘‘Intervention’’ or occupation of Mexico in the mid-1860s, when Maximilian of Habsburg was placed by Napoleon III as the ‘‘emperor’’ of Mexico.1 Although in Mexico on official business, Falconnet makes the rhetoric of the album per-...


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pp. 289-337

List of Contributors

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pp. 339-342


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pp. 343-361

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p. 363

The essays in this book were first presented in a series of workshops and conferences on early modern global collecting organized by the editors together with Malcolm Baker and Megan O’Neil, sponsored by the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute with generous funding from the Mellon Foundation, the Borchard Foundation, and the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences of the...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812204964
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812243055

Page Count: 392
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: The Early Modern Americas
Series Editor Byline: Peter C. Mancall, Series Editor See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 794700587
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Collecting Across Cultures

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Material culture -- Collectors and collecting.
  • Antiquities -- Collectors and collecting.
  • Preservation of materials.
  • First contact of aboriginal peoples with Westerners -- History.
  • Atlantic Ocean Region -- Commerce -- History.
  • Exchange -- Atlantic Ocean Region -- History.
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