In order to understand Sloane’s collecting passions, it is necessary to learn about Sloane’s background and to gain a broad overview of his life and the context in which he was living. These readings aim to cover the life of Sloane as well as the origins of his collection and its fate.
Sloane was Secretary and, from 1727, President of the Royal Society, placing him at the heart of the interchange of scientific knowledge in Early Enlightenment London. These readings give a thorough account of this period and Britain’s role within it, focussing particularly on the importance of’ curiosity in this period, something which was mirrored in Sloane’s own collection.
In 1689, Sloane travelled to Jamaica as physician to the Governor, the Duke of Albermarle. These readings focus on Sloane’s pursuits in Jamaica and on the wider connection between travel, colonialism and the pursuit of knowledge.
Before we can understand the ways in which Sloane catalogued his collection, it is essential to know the type of artefacts Sloane was collecting and, equally important, how. These readings give an overview of his collecting practice, as well as some wider and more theoretical writing on what it means to collect.
Natural artefacts made up the largest part of Sloane’s collection. The works below cover Sloane’s botanical specimens within his collection, as well as his fossils, vertebrates, human specimens, insects, shells and more.
Sloane collected manuscripts and books on a variety of subjects; at his death, he owned over 5000 manuscripts and 45,000+ printed books. This page also includes links to PDF transcriptions of some of Sloane’s library catalogues, and resources on finding printed material in the British Library and British Museum collections today.