William Hunter's World: The Art and Science of Eighteenth-Century Collecting, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

William Hunter's World

The Art and Science of Eighteenth-Century Collecting, 1st Edition

Edited by E. Geoffrey Hancock, Nick Pearce, Mungo Campbell


424 pages

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pub: 2018-04-25
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Despite William Hunter's stature as one of the most important collectors and men of science of the eighteenth century, and the fact that his collection is the foundation of Scotland's oldest public museum, The Hunterian, until now there has been no comprehensive examination in a single volume of all his collections in their diversity. This volume restores Hunter to a rightful position of prominence among the medical men whose research and amassing of specimens transformed our understanding of the natural world and man's position within it. This volume comprises essays by international specialists and are as diverse as Hunter's collections themselves, dealing as they do with material that ranges from medical and scientific specimens, to painting, prints, books and manuscripts. The first sections focus upon Hunter's own collection and his response to it, while the final section contextualises Hunter within the wider sphere. A special feature of the volume is the inclusion of references to the Hunterian's web pages and on-line databases. These enable searches for items from Hunter's collections, both from his museum and library. Locating Hunter's collecting within the broader context of his age and environment, this book provides an original approach to a man and collection whose importance has yet to be comprehensively assessed.


"William Hunter’s world is an excellent demonstration of how the histories of art and science can be enriched through attention to their intertwined material cultures. Interesting themes to emerge include the idea of encounters and exchanges within the collection; Hunter’s use of objects for teaching and research; museum documentation and what it can tell us about the emergence, transformation or dying away of disciplines; and questions of privacy in an era when dissection was conducted in private but its products were placed on display. The title provides a solid foundation for future William Hunter studies."

- Felicity Roberts, in Archives of Natural History, 2017

Table of Contents

Contents: Foreword, David Gaimster; Introduction, Mungo Campbell. Part I William Hunter: Developing his Museum: The Great Windmill Street Anatomy School and Museum, Helen McCormack; Anatomy and the ’museum oeconomy’: William and John Hunter as collectors, Simon Chaplin. Part II William Hunter: Anatomy in Practice: William Hunter’s sources of pathological and anatomical specimens, with particular reference to obstetric subjects, Stuart W. McDonald and John W. Faithfull; ’An universal language’: William Hunter and the production of The Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus, Caroline Grigson; The anatomist and the artists: Hunter’s involvement, Anne Dulau Beveridge; William Hunter’s anatomical and pathological specimens, Stuart W. McDonald. Part III William Hunter: Collector: Animal specimens in William Hunter’s anatomical collection, Stuart W. McDonald and Margaret Reilly; William Hunter’s zoological collections, Margaret Reilly; The shaping role of Johann Christian Fabricius: William Hunter’s insect collection and entomology in 18th-century London, E. Geoffrey Hancock; Dr John Fothergill: significant donor, Starr Douglas; The mineral collection of William Hunter: assembly and function, John W. Faithfull; A collection without a catalogue: Captain John Laskey and the missing vertebrate fossils from the collection of William Hunter, Jeff Liston; Archaeological objects in William Hunter’s collection, Sally-Anne Coupar; William Hunter’s parade shield: a memento of Leonardo’s Milan?, Martin Kemp; Ethnographic treasures in the Hunterian from Cook’s voyages, Adrienne L. Kaeppler; ’At last in Dr Hunter’s library’: William Hunter’s Chinese collections, Nick Pearce; William Hunter’s numismatic books, Donal Bateson; The ’Hunterian orchard’: William Hunter’s library, David Weston. Part IV William Hunter: The Wider World: On the way to the museum: Frederich The Great’s Bildergalerie in the park of Sanssouci in the context of other paint

About the Editors

E. Geoffrey Hancock, an entomologist with a career in various British museums, is currently Honorary Curator of Entomology and a Research Fellow in The Hunterian Museum. His interests include the history of museums and their collections. Professor Nick Pearce holds the Sir John Richmond Chair of Fine Art at the University of Glasgow, where he specialises in the arts of China. His career has spanned both museums and universities, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, The Burrell Collection in Glasgow and the universities of Durham and Edinburgh. Mungo Campbell worked at the National Galleries of Scotland until 1997 and is now Deputy Director of The Hunterian. Curating several major loan exhibitions culminated recently in Allan Ramsay; Portraits of the Enlightenment (2013) and he edited the accompanying publication.

About the Series

The Histories of Material Culture and Collecting, 1700-1950

The Histories of Material Culture and Collecting provides a forum for the broad study of object acquisition and collecting practices in their global dimensions from 1700 to 1950. The series seeks to illuminate the intersections between material culture studies, art history, and the history of collecting. It takes as its starting point the idea that objects both contributed to the formation of knowledge in the past and likewise contribute to our understanding of the past today. The human relationship to objects has proven a rich field of scholarly inquiry, with much recent scholarship either anthropological or sociological rather than art historical in perspective. Underpinning this series is the idea that the physical nature of objects contributes substantially to their social meanings, and therefore that the visual, tactile, and sensual dimensions of objects are critical to their interpretation. This series therefore seeks to bridge anthropology and art history, sociology and aesthetics. It encompasses the following areas of concern: 1. Material culture in its broadest dimension, including the high arts of painting and sculpture, the decorative arts (furniture, ceramics, metalwork, etc.), and everyday objects of all kinds. 2. Collecting practices, be they institutionalized activities associated with museums, governmental authorities, and religious entities, or collecting done by individuals and social groups. 3. The role of objects in defining self, community, and difference in an increasingly international and globalized world, with cross-cultural exchange and travel the central modes of object transfer. 4. Objects as constitutive of historical narratives, be they devised by historical figures seeking to understand their past or in the form of modern scholarly narratives. The series publishes interdisciplinary and comparative research on objects that addresses one or more of these perspectives and includes monographs, thematic studies, and edited volumes of essays.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / History / General
ART / History / Baroque & Rococo
HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century