Cabinets of curiosities were encyclopedic collections of objects whose categorical boundaries were, in Renaissance Europe, yet to be defined. Modern terminology would categorize the objects included as belonging to natural history, geology, ethnography, archaeology, religious or historical relics, works of art, the Kunstkammer was regarded as a microcosm or theater of the world, and a memory theater. The Kunstkammer conveyed symbolically the patrons control of the world through its indoor, the term cabinet originally described a room rather than a piece of furniture. The classic cabinet of curiosities emerged in the century, although more rudimentary collections had existed earlier. The earliest pictorial record of a natural history cabinet is the engraving in Ferrante Imperatos DellHistoria Naturale, some of the volumes doubtless represent his herbarium. Every surface of the ceiling is occupied with preserved fishes, stuffed mammals and curious shells. Examples of corals stand on the bookcases, above them, stuffed birds stand against panels inlaid with square polished stone samples, doubtless marbles and jaspers or fitted with pigeonhole compartments for specimens. Below them, a range of cupboards contain specimen boxes and covered jars, two of the most famously described seventeenth-century cabinets were those of Ole Worm, known as Olaus Wormius, and Athanasius Kircher. Often they would contain a mix of fact and fiction, including apparently mythical creatures, Worms collection contained, for example, what he thought was a Scythian Lamb, a woolly fern thought to be a plant/sheep fabulous creature. However he was responsible for identifying the narwhals tusk as coming from a whale rather than a unicorn. The specimens displayed were often collected during exploring expeditions and trading voyages, Cabinets of curiosities would often serve scientific advancement when images of their contents were published. The catalog of Worms collection, published as the Museum Wormianum, used the collection of artifacts as a point for Worms speculations on philosophy, science, natural history. Cabinets of curiosities were limited to those who could afford to create, many monarchs, in particular, developed large collections. A rather under-used example, stronger in art than other areas, was the Studiolo of Francesco I, frederick III of Denmark, who added Worms collection to his own after Worms death, was another such monarch. A third example is the Kunstkamera founded by Peter the Great in Saint Petersburg in 1714, many items were bought in Amsterdam from Albertus Seba and Frederik Ruysch. The fabulous Habsburg Imperial collection included important Aztec artifacts, including the feather head-dress or crown of Montezuma now in the Museum of Ethnology, similar collections on a smaller scale were the complex Kunstschränke produced in the early seventeenth century by the Augsburg merchant, diplomat and collector Philipp Hainhofer. The best preserved example is the one given by the city of Augsburg to King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden in 1632, the curio cabinet, as a modern single piece of furniture, is a version of the grander historical examples. In 1714, Michael Bernhard Valentini published an early work, Museum Museorum
"Musei Wormiani Historia", the frontispiece from the Museum Wormianum depicting Ole Worm's cabinet of curiosities.
A male Narwhal, whose tusk, as a Unicorn horn, was a common piece in cabinets.
Fold-out engraving from Ferrante Imperato's Dell'Historia Naturale (Naples 1599), the earliest illustration of a natural history cabinet
A corner of a cabinet, painted by Frans II Francken in 1636 reveals the range of connoisseurship a Baroque-era virtuoso might evince