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The Museum Wormianum (1654), the cabinet of curiosities by Ole Worm
The Museum Wormianum (1654), the cabinet of curiosities by Ole Worm

"King Solomon had a collection of curiosities; and when King Hezekiah in a boastful mood showed the envoys of the King of Babylon all the house of his precious things, the silver and the gold and the spices and the precious oil and all that was found in his treasures, they are certain that he took them round his museum. Some of these objects of interest were thought to have come down to our times, all duly catalogued by Collin de Plancy."--Museums: Their History and Their Use with a Bibliography and List of Museums in the United Kingdom (1904) by David Murray

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Collecting is a practice with a very old cultural history. In Mesopotamia, collecting practices have been noted among royalty and elites as far back as the 3rd millennium BCE. The Egyptian Ptolemaic dynasty collected books from all over the known world at the Library of Alexandria. The Medici family, in Renaissance Florence, made the first effort to collect art by private patronage, this way artists could be free for the first time from the money given by the Church and Kings; this citizenship tradition continues today with the work of private art collectors. Many of the world's popular museums—from the Metropolitan in New York City to the Thyssen in Madrid or the Franz Mayer in Mexico City—have collections formed by the collectors that donated them to be seen by the general public.

The collecting hobby is a modern descendant of the "cabinet of curiosities" which was common among scholars with the means and opportunities to acquire unusual items from the 16th century onwards. Planned collecting of ephemeral publications goes back at least to George Thomason in the reign of Charles I and Samuel Pepys in that of Charles II. Collecting engravings and other prints by those whose means did not allow them to buy original works of art also goes back many centuries. The progress in 18th-century Paris of collecting both works of art and of curiosité, dimly echoed in the English curios, and the origins in Paris, Amsterdam and London of the modern art market have been increasingly well documented and studied since the mid-19th century.

The involvement of larger numbers of people in collecting activities came with the prosperity and increased leisure for some in the later 19th century in industrial countries. That was when collecting such items as antique china, furniture and decorative items from oriental countries became established. The first price guide was the Stanley Gibbons catalogue issued in November 1865.


  1. A hobby including seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining whatever items are of interest to the individual collector.

See also


From con- +‎ legō (“bring together, gather, collect”).

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Collecting" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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