IGNAZ EDLER VON BORN (1742-1791)
Testacea Musei Caesarei Vindobonensis, quae jussu Mariae Theresiae Augustae disposuit et descripsit Ignatius a Born. Vienna: Gerold for Johann P. Kraus, 1780. 2 (446 x 275mm). Half-title, dedication to the Empress Marie-Therese. Title with emblematic engraved vignette by C. Schtz, 4 headpieces and 8 tailpieces, 36 illustrations of shells, all engraved by Schtz, C. Conti and others, 18 fine hand-coloured engraved plates of shells by Schtz or J. Adam after Fr. Fuxeder. Contemporary Austrian calf gilt, covers with wide rule and wavy line outer border enclosing an inner decorative border composed of various small stylised flower and foliage tools, spine in eight compartments with raised bands, red morocco lettering-piece in the second, the others with repeat decoration employing similar tools to the covers, vinegar-marbled endpapers, gilt and gauffered edges (neat repairs to spine and corners).
A fine copy of one of the most beautiful of all conchological works. The work was commissioned by Empress Marie-Therese to record and codify her natural history collection in Vienna. In 1778 Born published a descriptive catalogue of the collection; the present work, published two years later is on a much more sumptuous scale than the first work and included the fine coloured plates. The collection has remained in Vienna and is now in the Natural History Museum.
Baron Ignaz Edler von Born was from Karlsburg, Transylvania (now Alba Iulia, Romania), born on the 26th December 1742. Having rejected an education with the Jesuits in Vienna, he studied law in Prague and only later turned to natural history, and, more importantly mining. He joined the department mines and the mint in Prague in 1770, and mineralogy is the area in which he is now best remembered (see DSB II,p.315). His death at the relatively early age of 48 was probably hastened by his lively interest in all aspects of the practical side of mining and ore-extraction: "During his visit to a mine at Felso-Banya... He descended into the mine too soon after fires used to detach the ore had been extinguished, and inhaled a dangerously large quantity of arsenical vapors" (DSB). His reputation ensured that in 1776 he was called to Vienna by the Empress to arrange and describe the Imperial collection. The works on the shells in the Royal Collection were the only published results of this commission, which was apparently cut short by the Empress's death in 1780.
BM (NH) I,p.202; cf.S. Peter Dance Shell Collecting An Illustrated History 1966. pp.93-94; Nissen ZBI 470.