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2002 articles 1988 articles

A preliminary check-list of Sir Hans Sloane's catalogues

Peter Murray Jones

Abstract

THE purpose of this article is to provide a convenient means of locating the extant original catalogues of Sir Hans Sloane's collections. With the notable exception of Sloane's catalogue of coins and medals these have survived rather better than the collections themselves, and with their aid it is possible to gain an idea of what the collections must have contained when they were bequeathed to the nation in 1753. Numerical estimates of the items in Sloane's staggering bequest were provided at the time, but it would be impossible to add bare flesh to these bones without the catalogues. With their aid it is possible to identify many items of all sorts which belonged to Sloane and still survive (despite the very rudimentary descriptions provided in most entries), and even to glean significant information about provenance which may be of great value to students of particular objects. Taken as a whole, the catalogues will not only enable us to reconstruct Sloane's activities as a collector in the virtuoso tradition, but also to recognize him as a pioneer cataloguer who perceived the need to document his collections in a systematic way, and as a citizen of the enlightenment who saw them as a type of universal Baconian natural history in museum form, and as such a public scientific and cultural resource.

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