The title page to the catalogue.
About Catalogue of Valuable Specimens
The curiosities listed in this catalogue formed the basis of 'Mr Stubbs' Private Museum' in Ripon, North Yorkshire. The collection encompassed an eclectic mixture of objects: stuffed animals, fossils, antique sculptures and casts of ancient seals and coins. There were also bizarre items: a witch's tongue; a specimen of skin taken from the body of a murderer. Particularly rare objects included a shoe worn by the maid of honour at Queen Anne's wedding, a torture instrument found on the Spanish Armada, and a 'gigantic wild cat', which the collector claims to have 'trapped' on Ben-Lomond.
The catalogue was produced in 1867. Mr Stubbs had decided to sell the collection, and so the publication was aimed at prospective buyers.
Since the late 16th century collectors of curiosities had been obsessed with classifying and rationalising the wonders and oddities of the natural world. And their collections often reflected an interest in the bizarre and mythical. Exotic shells and jewels, stuffed animals, clockwork and scientific instruments were accompanied by the stuff of fairytales - mermaids, dragons, or the footprints of giants.