Cabinet of Curiosities


David Roentgen (German, 1743–1807). Berlin Secretary Cabinet, ca. 1778–79. H. 11 ft. 9 3/8 in. (359 cm). Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Inv. nr. O-1962.24). Photograph: Stefan Klonk, Berlin

I am embarrassed to admit my last Cabinet appeared in 2015, however this particular series is dear to my heart and will continue again, with regular updates.

My cabinet is from SteamPunk Tendencies,  a wonderful video that will have you wondering where creativity in furniture production has gone.   Designed by Abraham (1711–1793) and David Roentgen’s (1743–1807) workshop, this masterpiece of craftsmanship located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the finest examples of European furniture making. A writing cabinet crowned with a chiming clock, it features finely designed marquetry panels and elaborate mechanisms that allow for doors and drawers to be opened automatically at the touch of a button. Owned by King Frederick William II, the Berlin cabinet is uniquely remarkable for its ornate decoration, mechanical complexity, and sheer size.cabinet-1

This cabinet, from Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, was featured in the exhibition Extravagant Inventions, on view during October 30, 2012–January 27, 2013, at The Met.


Every February LetterMo celebrates the handwritten letter.  The challenge is to send a hand written letter every postal day during the month.  Renew friendships, reach out to family, and meet new people through this unique challenge.


I miss the handwritten letters of my mother, and still have some squirreled away.  Receiving this type of correspondence transcends the instant gratification of email, giving the sender and recipient a tangible intimate connection.  These 23 little gifts (23 postal days in the month) return the nostalgia of expectation to the mail.  Who isn’t tired of only receiving bills in the mail?  I know I am, and would love more correspondence in the manner.   One of my most popular blog search terms is cursive writing. A fading art, beautiful cursive writing, that will one day be viewed as code to those not educated in this version of text.  Take up the challenge!

In the spirit of hand written text, I wish to share in this Cabinet, Sexy Codicology, and their blog post on Humanistic Script. I stumbled upon Poggio Bracciolini while reading The Swerve, a fantastic story that compels the reader to learn more, a passion of mine.  Credited with saving handwritten texts, painstakingly reproducing the words of many lost Roman humanists, among them the great poem, On The Nature of Things by Lucretius.


Returning this lost manuscript to circulation changed the world beginning in the Middle Ages, when the poem was plucked from a remote monastery in the winter of 1417. History reached across time and beckoned from the gardens of the ancient philosophers to the dark scriptoria of Rome; the vision in these pages shaped the thoughts of Galileo, Freud, Darwin and Einstein, even coming into the hands of Thomas Jefferson, thus leaving its traces on the Declaration of Independence; aside from these possible influences, any book that has a chapter entitled ‘A Pit to Catch Foxes’ is worth a look.



The recent technology activities of the Royal Archives not only brings online access to Queen Victoria’s diaries, ultimately, the veritable treasure trove of King George III will be digitized as well.   America’s “Last King”, suffered from the blood disorder porphyria, producing physical ailments such as insomnia, sensitivity to light and confusion, and leading him to gain the moniker, ‘Mad King George.’  However, there is so much more to this historically maligned monarch.  This BBC documentary gives a rare inside view of the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle.


The King was not only an incredible hoarder but a diligent clerk, squirreling away anything that caught his eye, from classified state documents, maps, theater tickets and scraps of sheet music.  The papers show the king’s devotion to his family and to the great scientists and artists who flourished under his patronage.  He met Mozart and revered Handel all his life.  The planet Uranus was originally named Georgium Sidus – George’s star – discovered by William Herschel in 1781.  The bill for Herschel’s telescope is amongst these archival treasures.


Lastly, for pure escapism, I’ve got the key to Versailles.  Let’s stroll the halls, private chambers, marvel at the Hall of Mirrors, the gardens, and wonder at the magnificence of this storied palace.

Thank you for your continued support of the Cabinet of Curiosities!



What I am watching –  TABOO,  Black Sails

Anticipating – House of Cards

What I am reading –  The Swerve, The Ugly Renaissance

Anticipating – City of Light, City of Poison, Holly Tucker

Anticipating – The Oscars, Tulip Fever

Trending on Twitter @JohnCleese


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