This week, meet one of my favourite items in Special Collections: The Cabinet of Gems, by Samuel Batchelor.
Its magnificent subtitle is: Vocabulary of Precious Stones, arranged according to their comparative value : together with a description of the largest known diamonds and coloured gems in the world; the commercial history of rough diamonds; an account of the pearl fishery and the regalias of England, Scotland &c. Ours is the revised edition, printed in 1840 by W. Langdale of Knaresborough.
The Cabinet is an interesting book packed with quirky information, as the subtitle suggests. I particularly like the fact it is printed in Yorkshire. What I really love about this little volume though are the plates, especially the colourful illustration of gemstones, above. I’ve re-used this many times (here and here, for example), to illustrate the point that Special Collections are themselves gems or treasures. Sometimes they are hidden gems, uncatalogued and unknown; it is so rewarding to bring such collections to people’s knowledge, as we’re doing with this exhibition.