The man and his origins

Passion for Nature

Calouste Gulbenkian nurtured a special affection for all that was beautiful. Thus, nature itself, including both flora and fauna, was most cherished. Contemplating a rough sea, gazing at a wonderful sunset or hiking in the countryside were amongst the activities that he regarded as supreme pleasures. However, besides enjoying natureís wilderness, i.e., nature unspoiled by Man, Calouste Gulbenkian also expressed a keen interest in gardens and its history. In fact, his personal library possesses numerous books on landscape gardening, the art of gardening and horticulture. As far as this section is concerned, there are two sets of books. One set approaches gardening in a more theoretical manner and comprises seminal works in the field: Théorie de l’art des jardins, published in 5 volumes, between 1779 and 1785; La théorie et pratique du jardinage, also published in the 18th century; and Observations on the theory and practice of landscape gardening, published in 1805 and written by British landscape gardener Humphrey Repton. The other set of books, on the contrary, approaches the subject matter in a more practical general way, as can be evidenced, for instance, by the titles of the books: The making of a garden and La fumure des jardins.

Calouste Gulbenkian was especially fond of roses. As such, most of flower related documentation that he managed to gather, which ranged from textbooks and cultivation guides to specialized magazines, concerned this particular floral species. In addition, within the periodical section, there are also publications on landscape architecture, horticulture and floriculture, namely The gardeners’ chronicle: a weekley illustrated journal of horticulture and allied subjects and Jardins & basses-cours: conseils pratiques par le text et par l’image pour tous les travaux de la campagne.

Animals were equally appreciated by Calouste Gulbenkian, especially birds. Some specific books enclosed in his personal library confirm this fact. A few examples are How to sex cage birds, Pourquoi les oiseaux chantent, The poultry-keepers’s text-book, which contains unusual and peculiar handwritten notes on poultry breeding strategies; Le Zoo du bureau, a book with dedication to Calouste Gulbenkian, given to him as a present by one of his sons, on the Christmas of 1950. Overall, the books section regarding Calouste Gulbenkianís passion for nature is quite surprising, as far as the diversity of subjects and disciplines covered are concerned. This section represents only a fraction of his personal collection, and yet, it helps unveil and reveal a lot more about his particular interests and his personality.

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Collection highlights

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