Collecting Across Cultures
Material Exchanges in the Early Modern Atlantic World
Daniela Bleichmar and Peter C. Mancall, Editors
392 pages | 7 x 10 | 12 color, 65 b/w illus.
Paper 2013 | ISBN 978-0-8122-2220-3 | $29.95s | £19.50 | Add to cart
Ebook 2011 | ISBN 978-0-8122-0496-4 | $29.95s | £19.50 | About | Add to cart
A volume in the Early Modern Americas series
View table of contents and excerpt
"The essays in Collecting Across Cultures offer a fascinating new perspective on Europe's encounters with an ethnically and culturally diverse early modern world. . . . Collections and the objects within them are thus themselves imaginatively reconceptualized as sites of encounter and exchange."—British Journal for the History of Science
In the early modern age more people traveled farther than at any earlier time in human history. Many returned home with stories of distant lands and at least some of the objects they collected during their journeys. And those who did not travel eagerly acquired wondrous materials that arrived from faraway places. Objects traveled various routes—personal, imperial, missionary, or trade—and moved not only across space but also across cultures.
Histories of the early modern global culture of collecting have focused for the most part on European Wunderkammern, or "cabinets of curiosities." But the passion for acquiring unfamiliar items rippled across many lands. The court in Java marveled at, collected, and displayed myriad goods brought through its halls. African princes traded captured members of other African groups so they could get the newest kinds of cloth produced in Europe. Native Americans sought colored glass beads made in Europe, often trading them to other indigenous groups. Items changed hands and crossed cultural boundaries frequently, often gaining new and valuable meanings in the process. An object that might have seemed mundane in some cultures could become a target of veneration in another.
The fourteen essays in Collecting Across Cultures represent work by an international group of historians, art historians, and historians of science. Each author explores a specific aspect of the cross-cultural history of collecting and display from the dawn of the sixteenth century to the early decades of the nineteenth century. As the essays attest, an examination of early modern collecting in cross-cultural contexts sheds light on the creative and complicated ways in which objects in collections served to create knowledge—some factual, some fictional—about distant peoples in an increasingly transnational world.
Daniela Bleichmar is Associate Professor of Art History and History at the University of Southern California.
Peter C. Mancall is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities and Professor of History and Anthropology at the University of Southern California and Director of the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute.