Leskean Cabinet

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Leskean Cabinet is an 18th-century mineral and natural history collection conserved in the Natural History Museum in Dublin. It is a cabinet of mineralogy which was assembled by Nathaniel Gottfried Leske.



Early in 1792 a committee of the Royal Dublin Society was appointed to bid for the purchase of the cabinet of mineralogy assembled by Nathaniel Gottfried Leske and known as the Leskean Cabinet, then for sale. A sum of £1200 was voted for this purpose, but the total cost was about £1250. 1 On the 8th of November, 1792 Dr. Richard Kirwan, who had negotiated the purchase of this cabinet, reported that it was then lodged at the Society’s warehouse at Poolbeg Street, then at Hawkins Street. Also curated[clarification needed] there were the Society’s collections of art, archaeology, zoological and botanical specimens.

The Hawkins Street premises as described in 1815[edit]

The front and sides of the buildings of the Society included a 97 feet in length quadrangular area. The hewn granite facade on Hawkins Street had a centre and two wings, each of two stories. There were two Doric pilasters, without bases, and the centre ended in an attic story above the entablature. The door was Doric and in a niche above was a figure of Minerva with a cornucopia. On the shield at her feet was an Irish harp, with the motto, "Nostri plena laboribus". In the interior was a broad, high room, 39 by 25 feet, well-lit and ornamented. There were two spacious “apartments” for the Leskean museum and the gallery for Irish specimens. After a gallery, 90 by 30 feet, around which were disposed the Society's busts and statues, a group of Laocoon ending the vista. Off this were the drawing schools. The library occupied three rooms. A naturally roof-lit exhibition room for paintings was considered the finest of its kind in Europe next to the Louvre. In the rear of the quadrangular court was a chemical laboratory and the lecture-room, around which was a gallery with seating accommodation for eight hundred people.

The collection[edit]

On Leske’s death his collection was enlarged, revised, and also described by Karl Johann Bernhard Karsten. Richard Kirwan made further revisions.

The collection of 7331 mineral specimens was divided into five separate parts : —

1. External character of minerals.

2. Classification of minerals.

3. Earth's internal structure (or geological).

4. Mineralogical geography.

5. Economical mineralogy.

In addition the collection contained zoological specimens including many type specimens from the collection of Johann Friedrich Gmelin

In 1795 William Higgins was made professor of chemistry and mineralogy to the Dublin Society and the Leskean cabinet was placed under his care. It was open to students, and rules regulating admission were printed. A chemical laboratory was established, and Higgins was instructed to make experiments.

Public exhibition[edit]

Part of the collection was on display along with additions in the Museum of the Dublin Society. The display was described in Wright's Historical Guide to the City of Dublin thus:- "Second Room. Here the animal kingdom is displayed, arranged in six classes. 1. Mammalia. 2. Aves. 3. Amphibia. 4. Pisces. 5. Insectae. 6. Vermes. Here is a great variety of shells, butterflies and beetles, and of the most beautiful species. The Fifth Room contains the remaining, or geological part of the original Leskean collection."


  • Berry. H. F., 1915. A History of the Royal Dublin Society Longmans, Green and Co., London
  • Description of Minerals in the Leskean Museum, by D. Ludwig Gustavus Karsten, translation of volume two of Dietrich Ludwig Gustav Karsten's Des Herrn Nathanael Gottfried Leske hinterlassenes Mineralienkabinett, systematisch geordnet und beschrieben, auch mit vielen wissenschaftlichen Anmerkungen und mehreren äussern Beschreibungen der Fossilien begleitet, Leipzig 1789, by George Mitchell, is among the Haliday pamphlets in the RDS Library (1798, dccxli (=741), [1] p.). It occupies 667 pages, followed by an index. Volume 1 on zoological material was not translated.(A copy of the original German work is in the British Library, London cf. copac)
  • Kirby W. F., 1869 "On the Diurnal Lepidoptera described in Gmelin's Edition of the Systema Naturæ". Transactions of the Royal Entomological Society of London; Volume 17, Issue 5, pages 355–362, December 1869

External links[edit]

  • BHL Bernard'O Reilly, 1813 Catalogue of the subjects of natural history in the Museum of the Royal Dublin Society, also of the antiquities, &c. Royal Dublin Society, Dublin.
  • Mineralogical Record
  • ArchiveOrg