Documented provenance (the history of the ownership of a book or object) can add a great deal to our knowledge and understanding of the item, and a Sloane provenance is particularly fascinating. Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) - physician, entrepreneur, naturalist - formed a huge and diverse collection of natural and man-made objects and, after his death, this became the foundation collection of the British Museum in Bloomsbury, London.
About a year ago, I was intrigued to notice the following inscription in volume 2 of Albertus Seba's (1665-1736) "Thesaurus" (or encyclopaedia), dated 1735 - "Bibliotheca Sloanianae Min. 62".
The inscription had apparently been overlooked since the book was added to the Natural History Museum Library in the late 19th century. It indicates that the volume was part of Sloane's collection of "Miniatura", the name he gave to the category of highly illustrated works in his collection (including books, engravings, and oil or watercolour paintings), whether small or large in format.
A further point of interest connected to this volume was drawn to my attention by a colleague at the British Library. In 1748, the Swedish naturalist Pehr Kalm (1716 - 1779) visited Sloane at his house in Chelsea, and subsequently wrote an account of this visit.
He refers to the "Thesaurus" as one of Sloane's most prized possessions, with which he delighted in showing his visitors. We have also found evidence to suggest that the "Thesaurus" was a gift to Sloane from its author Seba.
The volume merits further research, but it is undoubtedly a great treasure in our collection.
Paul Cooper - Assistant Librarian