This Unrivalled Collection: The Hunterian's first catalogue
2013 saw the 200th anniversary of the publication of The Hunterian’s first guide and collections catalogue, one of the earliest in the world. In 1813 Captain James Laskey (c.1760 - 1829) published his ‘General Account of the Hunterian Museum’, the museum of the University of Glasgow, built for purpose and opened as Scotland's first public museum in 1807. The catalogue records the entire gift of founder William Hunter (1713-83), medical scientist and collector, as informed by the Georgian Enlightenment. Together with its objects and narrative, the catalogue formed the focus of a Hunterian special exhibition, This Unrivalled Collection: The Hunterian's first catalogue (after the frontispiece of the catalogue), which ran from March through to August 2013. The exhibits recreated a sense of Scotland's first public museum experience and triggered a dialogue between the knowledge base of early 19th-century Britain and our understanding of human history and the natural world today. Star objects included one of the original casts made of the Rosetta Stone on its arrival in London in 1802, causing a public sensation, a Renaissance shield, insect cabinets, zoological and ethnographic specimens, antiquities, coins and medals and works of art. Further research intended for publication in the Journal of the History of Collections will place the work in its comparative contemporary context, examine the motivation and methodology of the author and comment on the museological significance of the work.
Image 1. Engraving of The Hunterian Museum, 1829 by J Fleming