With Swedish botanist Linnaeus revolutionising taxonomy in his book Systema Naturae published in 1735, there was much enthusiasm to classify the natural world.
Grand Tour travellers who collected fossils, shells, illustrations and elaborate taxidermy displayed their exotic ‘curiosities’ and collections in formal settings, the viewing of which became standard after dinner entertainment.
In 1753 the British Museum opened its doors. It was the first national public museum in the world. Made up of almost entirely one man’s bequest collection, Sir Hans Sloane, many of the 71,000 objects were natural specimens and ‘curiosities’.
The wealthy London middle classes, many too poor to attend the Grand Tour, now had access to great arts collections on their doorstep. Gilbert White’s famous Natural History of Selborne was published in 1789 (and hasn’t been out of print since).
Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle sailed towards the close of the Georgian era in 1831.
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