This is a new illustrated biography of Elias Ashmole (1617–92), founder of the first public museum in Britain – the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
Starting with his humble origins this book follows Ashmole through legal training in London, to his Royalist positions during the Civil War and the development of his expertise in heraldry, astrology, geneaology and the orders of chivalry, leading to his position as Comptroller of the Excise under Charles II. It also tells the story of his three marriages and how he came to acquire the famous collection of ‘rarities’ belonging to the Tradescant family. This became the founding collection of the Ashmolean Museum, much of which can still be viewed there today.
What is remarkable about Ashmole’s legacy is the fact that he also made the Ashmolean Museum a safe space for his library, in particular important manuscripts and books about English political and natural history, which provide historians today with essential primary sources on early modern Britain and Europe.
This biography presents Ashmole as both a patriotic Englishman and a European scholar in a time of intense political upheaval. It also shows how he had the incredible foresight to negotiate the building of a museum in order to preserve important manuscripts, books and collections of ‘rarities’ for posterity.
Vittoria Feola is an early modern historian working between Oxford and Padua.
256 pages, 234 x 156 mm
32 pages of colour plates & 15 black and white integrated illustrations
Publication July 2017
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