A Paper Museum

Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677), Muscarum scarabeorum, uermiumque uarie figure & formae / omnes primo ad uiuum coloribus depictæ & ex collectione Arundelian a Wenceslao Hollar aqua forti æri insculptæ, Antuerpiæ, anno, 1646. [Antwerp, Belgium: s.n., 1646]. Gift of Elmer Adler. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) 2004-3713N

Named Václav but called Wenceslaus when living in London, Hollar was a Czech printmaker who published his first book etchings in 1635. He traveled with the renowned art collector Thomas Howard, the Earl of Arundel, who finally settle in London.

Hollar assignment was to etch copies of each individual item in Arundel’s collection, in an attempt to create a visual inventory or a paper museum. He never finished, although Muscarum scarabeorum … includes some of Arundel’s massive collection.

Thomas Sprat (1635-1713), The History of the Royal-Society of London, for the Improving of Natural Knowledge (London: Printed by T. R. for J. Martyn … and J. Allestry … printers to the Royal Society, 1667). Frontispiece etched by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) after design by John Evelyn (1620-1706). Gift of Elmer Adler, signed by Albert Einstein. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) 2004-3215N

When Lord Arundel left England in 1642, and Hollar passed into the service of the Duke of York, working alongside other royalist artists, such as Inigo Jones. Over his lifetime, Hollar created nearly 3,000 etchings. He was one of the most skilled printmakers of his time, despite being almost blind in one eye.

The following anecdote is difficult to prove but fun to repeat. Holland struggled all his life to make a living, charging four pence an hour for his work (measuring his time with a sandglass). As he was dying, his last recorded words were a request to the bailiffs that they would not carry away the bed until he was entirely dead.

Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677), Le triomphe de la Mort / gravé d’apres les desseins de Holbein par W. Hollar ([London: s.n., 1790]) The 32 plates are interleaved with the text Explication des sujets de triomphe de la Mort de Jean Holbein. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) 2006-2648N

To see more of Hollar’s work, see http://link.library.utoronto.ca/hollar/