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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the deliberate gathering of, in most cases, similar objects that tend to have scientific, historical, or artistic value. It is motivated by the desire for knowledge and for the satisfaction of specific interests. The objects people collect vary, including objects of material and spiritual culture (for example, manuscripts, books, coins, postage stamps, and works of art) and natural objects (such as minerals, plants, and insects). Collecting involves the discovery, accumulation, study, and classification of materials, thus differing essentially from simple accumulation.

Accumulation dates to the most ancient times. However, as a specific form of human activity, collecting originated and developed during the Renaissance. The nature of collecting initially tended to be universal. Thus, the collection of the Medici family in Florence contained, in addition to works of art, various unique objects and minerals from many countries. Other collectors of rare objects were Louis XIV, the French cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin, the popes Julius II and Leo X, and Emperor Charles V. Sometimes collectors set up rooms full of curios. At the beginning of the 18th century in Russia, Peter I had such a collection, known as the Kunstkamera. There were also a number of private collections, including that of la. V. Brius, whose museum contained in addition to numerous objects of antiquity, nature, and history, as well as scientific instruments, one of the first Russian collections of coins and medals. Famous universal collections were those of J. W. von Goethe in Germany and of the American artist and naturalist C. W. Peale. Specialized collections of natural history and art became widespread in the second half of the 18th century. A. I. Musin-Pushkin had a great collection of ancient Russian manuscripts and books.

When the sciences became differentiated in the 19th century, specialized collections of similar objects were created as a spur to the acquisition of knowledge. The development of the principles of scientific systematization had a great deal of influence on the collecting of natural and historical objects. In Russia the collectors were mainly interested in gathering indigenous antiques and artifacts, archaeological and ethnographic remains, and natural objects from all parts of the country. Members of the bourgeoisie and intellectuals of various classes began to organize collections. The approach to the collecting and study of objects became more serious and profound. Many of the private collections of the 19th and early 20th centuries became the basis of museums (the collections of P. M. and S. M. Tret’iakov and S. I. and P. I. Shchukin, which consisted of works of fine art; the ethnographic materials collected by M. K. Tenisheva; A. V. Morozov’s ceramics; and A. A. Bakhrushin’s theatrical objects). Some collections were incorporated into museum collections (A. S. Uvarov’s archaeological collection, the fine arts collections of P. Ia. Dashkov and I. S. Ostroukhov, and G. P. Dement’ev’s ornithological collection). Some private collections of books (for example, those of N. P. Rumiantsev and A. D. Chertkov) became the basis of immense libraries.

At the turn of the 20th century collecting became a profitable form of tax-exempt investment, first in the USA and then in Europe, giving rise to speculation on collectible ojbects.

In the development of collecting, its ties with the natural sciences and the auxiliary historical disciplines were strengthened. Collecting fostered the development of numismatics, heraldry, sphragistics, archaeology, and ethnography. The independent fields of scientific, educational, and amateur collecting arose. A leading role in the development of scientific collecting was played by museums. W. von Bode, general director of the Berlin museums, was prominent in devising the technique of scientific collecting. Educational collecting seeks to instill good research habits in students; educational collections provide an effective visual method of instruction. Amateur collecting fosters the systematic selection of objects, based on scientific systematization of various branches of knowledge. With the rise of popular types of collecting, such as philately, bonistika, amateur numismatics, match boxes and their labels, post cards, phonograph records, and insignia, collections based on the selection of various materials according to definite subjects became important. The method of composing thematic collections was initially developed in the USSR in the 1920’s and became widespread there. The development of large-scale amateur collecting is fostered by the issuing of widely accessible collectible objects such as stamps, postcards, insignia, labels, and phonograph records, the organization of specialized stores, and the publication of books and magazines on problems of collecting.In many countries there are different kinds of collectors’ associations. In the USSR there is the All-Union Society of Philatelists, which also includes sections for book collectors, lovers of recorded music, and other kinds of enthusiasts.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.