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Gröste Denckwürdigkeiten der Welt oder so-gennante Relationes Curiosæ
Hamburg: Thomas von Wiering, 1683-, 1691. Five volumes, quarto, 196 engraved and woodcut plates (some folding), title-pages printed in red and black, woodcut textual illustrations and initials; bound in contemporary vellum, titles lettered on spine, a few plates trimmed, some browning and spotting, but generally a very attractive set. The wonders of the world. A fine set of Happel's remarkable book of wonders, an endlessly informative series filled with the newest and most sensational news from around the world: 'a miscellany of popular information, containing short notices of curious phenomena in every part of the globe, as well as of curious historical events. The notices of American matters are numerous in all the volumes' (Sabin). Among the many wonders here described, the double-page map of the world showing ocean currents is particularly notable. Showing the entire globe from Greenland in the north to the "Süd-Land", this map is a good instance of popular interest in the mapping of the world, including the putative outline of Terra Australis: 'an important early representation of oceanographic phenomena. It illustrates Kircher's idea that there are chasms in the depths of the sea into which the water flows, then percolates through the earth and up to the tops of mountains' (National Maritime Museum, Greenwich). Happel (1647-1690) was a writer and journalist, and one of the most-widely read novelists of his time. His so-called "endless novels" with their picaresque attention to detail relied on his omnivorous fascination with social history, scientific discovery, and other novelties from around the world. This remarkable collection of "curiosities" was probably his most significant historical work, and is derived from all manner of sources including the newspapers and journals of the day; his voracious reading meant that the material represents a real snapshot of contemporary interests. This lavishly illustrated book was a sort of print version of the aristocratic collections of curiosities, with fulsome descriptions of natural history ranging from the scientific to the invented. It would be impossible to list the various subjects discussed and illustrated here, but they include the pyramids of Egypt, the tower of Babel, fossils and insects, Pharo, Babylon, mermaids, a bull-fight, Oliver Cromwell, the oracle of Delphi, Cardinal Mazarin, whaling among icebergs, and the fall of Jerusalem. Two of the more exotic plates depict a Brazilian giant devouring a man in gruesome detail, and a scene of Hottentots scoffing fresh entrails. Exact details on collation do vary, with Faber du Faur suggesting 198 and Dünnhaupt 194: the present copy, with 196, is evidently as issued, and represents an appropriate figure for such a monumental work. The first volume is the second edition, the remaining four are first editions, as with Faber du Faur's set.
      [Bookseller: Hordern House Rare Books]
Last Found On: 2014-07-29           Check availability:      Biblio    

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