Cover: Collecting the World: Hans Sloane and the Origins of the British Museum, from Harvard University PressCover: Collecting the World in PAPERBACK

Collecting the World

Hans Sloane and the Origins of the British Museum

Add to Cart

Product Details

PAPERBACK

$20.00 • £16.95 • €18.00

ISBN 9780674237483

Publication Date: 03/18/2019

Trade

544 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

42 color photos, 27 photos, 3 maps

Belknap Press

Not for sale in UK, British Commonwealth & Europe (except Canada)

In 1759 the British Museum opened its doors to the general public—the first free national museum in the world. James Delbourgo’s biography of Hans Sloane recounts the story behind its creation, told through the life of a figure with an insatiable ambition to pit universal knowledge against superstition and the means to realize his dream.

Born in northern Ireland in 1660, Sloane amassed a fortune as a London society physician, becoming a member of the Whig establishment and president of the Royal Society and Royal College of Physicians. His wealth and contacts enabled him to assemble an encyclopedic collection of specimens and objects—the most famous cabinet of curiosities of its time. For Sloane, however, collecting a world of objects meant collecting a world of people, including slaves. His marriage to the heir of sugar plantations in Jamaica gave Sloane access to the experiences of planters and the folkways of their human property. With few curbs on his passion for collecting, he established a network of agents to supply artifacts from China, India, North America, the Caribbean, and beyond. Wampum beads, rare manuscripts, a shoe made from human skin—nothing was off limits to Sloane’s imagination.

This splendidly illustrated volume offers a new perspective on the entanglements of global scientific discovery with imperialism in the eighteenth century. The first biography of Sloane based on the full range of his writings and collections, Collecting the World tells the rich and complex story of one of the Enlightenment’s most controversial luminaries.

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

Jacket: A Brief History of Equality, by Thomas Piketty, from Harvard University Press

Five Reasons Why You Should Read Thomas Piketty’s A Brief History of Equality

In his surprising and powerful new work, A Brief History of Equality, Thomas Piketty reminds us that the grand sweep of history gives us reasons to be optimistic. Over the centuries, he shows, we have been moving toward greater equality. We asked him about his impassioned new book: why he wrote it, how it’s optimistic, and what we need to do to continue making progress on creating an equitable world.