A unique collection & library on the history of natural history collecting

Established since 2006 - Online since 2010

The main mission of the privately funded Tricottet Collection is the preservation of historic natural history items. By this term, we refer to objects relating to the field of natural history, which are associated with individuals, institutions or events in history. The collection is divided into four categories, the Hall of Minerals, Hall of Life, Hall of Meteorites and Cabinet of Curiosities. The Tricottet Library of rare books, manuscripts and images completes the collection.

Paul Eudel collections and collectors, letters, manuscripts

Fig. 1: Paul Eudel's 1885 anthology on French collections and collectors of the 19th century: (1) One of only two copies printed on rose-colored paper of "Collections et collectionneurs" (G. Charpentier et Cie., Paris, 300 pp.). With Eudel's signed autograph inscription on the title verso: "Il a été tiré sur papier rose deux exemplaires qui n'ont pas été mis dans le commerce. Paul Eudel. No. 2"; (2) "Correspondance, Collections et collectionneurs, avant et après", bound volume with over 80 letters & a manuscript on shell collecting. Among the letters are some from Arthur Maury (1844-1907), one of the pioneers of philately and author of the first stamp-collecting catalogues; some from Ad. Giraldon regarding the toy collection of Mme Agar; others from pottery collector Gustave Gouellain, to whom Eudel dedicated his book; etc. The Tricottet Collection themes are not forgotten since it also includes a few letters on shells, but most importantly, a 21-page manuscript on shell collecting by Eudel's brother Emile. Paul Eudel (1837-1911), one of the great French connoisseurs, bibliophiles and art critics of the 19th century, wrote prolifically on the subject of collecting - Source: The Tricottet Library.

The First Explicit Metacollection

Two different collecting behaviours exist, relating to the processes of curating or possessing. The curator, a scientist or historian, can be seen as the gatherer and protector of the information, or facts, contained in a collection or set of objects. The collector is anyone passionate about his collection or more exactly about the idea of completing a set of objects (e.g., Baudrillard, 1994). Metacollecting refers to the act of collecting collection-objects. In this case, the collection becomes a higher-level object. The concept of metacollecting thus yields a focus shift from objects of intrinsic scientific value to objects of extrinsic socio-historical value. The “collection-object” is defined by its attributes of being one specific collection prepared by one specific collector, i.e. by the information associated to the lower-level objects (or specimens) the collection contains (Mignan, 2016). It is similar to object biography and relates more generally to material culture.

Fig. 1 shows the 1885 anthology "Collections et Collectionneurs" by Paul Eudel, where the author collects himself stories about collectors. Eudel talks about antiques, toys, pipes, stamps and shells and how these objects are viewed in the eyes of their owners. It epitomizes what The Tricottet Collection is all about, which is collecting collections... or metacollecting. The Tricottet Collection especially focuses on natural history collections:
Minerals: ores, crystals and gems;
Life: past (fossils), present (e.g., shells) and future (cybernetics);
Meteorites: falls, finds, tektites and other glasses;
Curios: "Collectionnite", Scientifica and Forteana.
It also touches other collecting themes (but always relating to natural history), such as books, art works and scientific instruments. All of these collection-objects are characterized by their labels and inventory numbers, by the way they are displayed and/or by their place in history (Fig. 2).

An Exhibit Collection

As natural history collecting is a limitless topic, The Tricottet Collection follows some strict rules to make its scope somewhat finite. While its coverage is broad, it is not a systematic collection, nor an objective one. This metacollection is the result of a personal adventure and uses several subjective filtering strategies, promoting:
• Specimens with long documented chains-of-custody (i.e., high SHCI);
• Specimen sizes ranging from "Thumbnail" to "Small Cabinet";
• A trade-off between the historical importance of the collector and the collected;
• The aesthetics and the unusual.

The Tricottet Collection is before all an exhibit collection, whose aim is to tell stories about the history of natural history collecting with selected suites of specimens, books, and other memorabilia.


Knyahynia meteorite antique historic labels inventory number early fall depiction

Fig. 2. Example of collection-object: Knyahynia meteorite endcut with attributes (labels, inventory number) from the Masaryk University, Czech Republic. Knyahynia was one of the first depicted meteorite falls, as shown in the background (Haidinger, 1866) - Source: The Tricottet Collection & Library.

The Tricottet Collection is divided in three sections (Hall of Minerals, Hall of Life and Hall of Meteorites), in which selections of rare and aesthetic natural history specimens, by category, are displayed. Every specimen once sojourned in one or several collections of historical importance, from museums or from influential individuals.

The Cabinet of Curiosities consists of an heteroclite accumulation of curios, separated into Artificialia, Naturalia, Scientifica and Forteana. In contrast with other sections of The TC, the Cabinet of Curiosities does not only consider antiques but also contemporary oddities. So we do not seek to recreate a cabinet of curiosities from another era, but we want to build a modern day curiosity cabinet, one that provides a sense of wonder in our Information Age.

The Tricottet Library, made of books, letters, manuscripts and images, focuses on the history of natural history collecting, in particular: collection catalogues and notices, sales catalogues, biographies, bibliographies and material on the history of collecting, various documents on specific historic objects, being minerals, fossils, shells, gems, etc. or on oddities in general (artificialia, forteana, naturalia and scientifica).


in journals

Metacollecting and use of "collection-objects" in prosopographical studies of meteorite collections
Meteorites, vol. 4, nos. 1-2, pp. 11-22 (2016)

in magazines

The Monnig Meteorite Collection Numbers Revisited
Meteorite magazine, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 10-13 (2012)
Claims of Indigenous Life Forms in Meteorites: A Short Review
Meteorite magazine, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 34-38 (2011)

Socio-historical collection index

The goal of metacollecting, which is to identify and analyse, from collection specimens, the links between different individuals including museum curators, researchers, dealers and others, is now formalized by the socio-historical collection index (or SHCI). We are in the process of evaluating the SHCI of the objects contained in our collections. To learn more about this new index, please refer to Mignan (2016).

The Tricottet Collection Elsewhere

The Tricottet Collection's name is now on permanent display in the world's oldest and largest meteorite exhibit, at the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien! Follow the image trail below to find us (photographs reproduced with permission).

Objects from The Tricottet Collection are also featured in the following books: Brandstätter et al. (2013), Buhl and McColl (2012), Golia (2015) and Nicholl (2015).

Terms of Use

We encourage the dissemination of information contained in the Tricottet Collection. However the materials provided on this website are the intellectual property of The Tricottet Collection or of third parties, when stated as such:
Materials from The Tricottet Collection, which correspond to texts and images produced by The Tricottet Collection, may be used for non-commercial purposes only (education and scholarly research). When reproducing images, you agree to attach the copyright notice "© The Tricottet Collection" and, when reproduced on a website, to add a link to The Tricottet Collection. High-resolution images are available upon request, only for reproduction in scholarly articles and books;
Third party materials part of The Tricottet Library (recent letters, manuscripts, images not yet in the public domain) may be copyrighted. All efforts were made to obtain the consent of the copyright holders to publish their works on The Tricottet Collection website. We however do not provide the rights to reproduce third party materials elsewhere.