Like any worthy Wunderkammer, to reap its finer rewards this eclectic collection demands close looking and deep reading, if not several return visits. Smartly designed, edited, and formatted in the manner of a weighty exhibition catalog, Natural Things in Early Modern Worlds falls into that venerable hybrid genre that since the Enlightenment has sought to marry art and nature. At the same time, it mimics a current trend in museography, wherein visual artists are invited to mount critical interventions within the museum's galleries.

In this case, the galleries are 12 scholarly biographies of objects of early modern knowledge, while the critical artistic interventions (by designers Zoë Sadokierski and Katie Dean) in those galleries take the (pre-Enlightenment?) form of 12 frontispieces, here called “collages” and “visual provocations,” that otherwise seek to condense key elements of the chapter essays. The 12 galleries or chapters are, in the order of their appearance,...

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