This post originally appeared on the Smithsonian Libraries blog and has been republished at the permission of the author, Julia Blakely.
As a commemoration of the Imperial collection of shells in Vienna, the printed folio of Testacea Musei Caesarei Vindobonensis of 1780, is splendid. The eighteen engraved plates, carefully colored by hand, render individual specimens in the Habsburgs’ K.K. Hof-naturalien-Cabinet as if pieces of jewelry, casting shadows on a plain background of the thick, hand-made paper. Dedicated to the Empress of Austria, Maria Theresa (1717-1780), this production was also a work of science, as the task of arranging the shells in the Cabinet and describing them for publication was given to one of the leading scientists of the day, Ignaz Edler von Born (1742-1791).