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Z.C. von Uffenbach's report on Bodleian curiosities

Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach (1683-1734) visited Oxford as part of his more wide-ranging visit to England. His comments on the Bodleian Library (visit of 19 August 1710) strike a typical note of disappointment, but do reveal something of how objects now held by the Museum were displayed in the early 18th century.

"We ran through the three corridors together without moving a single book, and the Sub-Librarian Crab (an arch-ignoramus who, were it not that this was his living, would have preferred sitting in a tavern to being in the Library) merely remarked that there were theological books here. In the lowest corridor, he pointed out or indicated with his finger where the manuscripts were without reaching down a single one ... At a window, on a table, stood some well-made openwork brass instruments used in geometry, which lay round a five-sided alabaster column, on top of which was a Polyhedron. Near this was also a Globus armillaris of brass on a wooden pedestal. In this pedestal was a drawer, which Mr Crab unlocked, and in which he showed us a very valuable quadrant. This is said to be of pure gold. There are many scales and calculators upon it, but rather badly engraved, though the worthy Crab, to make it seem more costly, opined that the work was even more valuable than the material from which the quadrant was made. I would sooner have had the gold myself. ... This quadrant is more than a Rhenish foot square and possibly six to eight pounds in weight. The artist's name was on it Christophorus Schissler, Geometricus ac Astronomicus artifex Augustae Vindelicorum faciebat 1579. At the present day we know how to make them more conveniently and correctly."

From von Uffenbach's Merckw├╝rdige Reisen , 3 vols (Ulm, 1753-4), III, p. 99-100; for an English translation see W.H. Quarrell and W.J.C. Quarrell, Oxford in 1710: from the Travels of Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1928).

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Related Objects:

Inventory No. 70229, "Armillary Sphere, Italian?, c. 1580" [1951-55]