The man and his origins

Cultivated man

Cosmopolitan and refined, Calouste Gulbenkian proved to have truly been a cultivated person and a man of his own time. Being fully aware of the world in which he lived, Calouste Gulbenkian had a wide range of other interests besides his professional activity and his passion for art. His personal library not only conveys these personality traits but also conveys a sense of the cultural setting of his time, when it was customary for intellectuals to have an interest in practically all the branches of human knowledge. Thus, one is able to find books on several humanities and social science disciplines, such as History, Archaeology, Literature, Religion, Aesthetics, Philosophy and Education. As far as Education is concerned, Calouste Gulbenkian collected books which might unveil and help understand to a further extent his temperament and personality: L'éducation de la volonté, Self-help with illustrations of conduct and preseverance, Essai sur les passions, L'éducation du caractère and Science & education: essays. The last-named book, written by Thomas H. Huxley - one of the first enthusiastic supporters of Darwin’s Evolutionary Theory - has the peculiarity of having marks due to Calouste Gulbenkian’s attentive reading.

Several disciplines of natural sciences are also present in Calouste Gulbenkian’s personal library, namely Meteorology, Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics. Although Calouste Gulbenkian was unable to fulfil one of his dearest wishes, which was to become a scientist, he collected and was an avid reader of scientific published material. His collection includes monographs such as Sir Isaac Newton’s principia, L’avenir de la science: pensées de 1848, Darwin and the modern science, and Leçons élémentaires de chimie moderne. Periodicals to which Calouste Gulbenkian had subscribed and thus, received regularly, are also contained in this section. Some examples are Bulletin de la Société Nationale d’Acclimatation de France: revue des sciences naturelles apliquées, The geographical journal: including the proceedings of The Royal Geographical Society and L’astronomie: revue mensuelle d’astronomie, de météorologie et de physique du globe. In addition, the collection contains a small selection of books about photography, a technical innovation, which at the time was merely another invention amongst the many that flourished during the 19th century. However, if one is to think how swiftly photography evolved and became a means of artistic expression, one cannot stress enough the extent to which Calouste Gulbenkian was a cultivated person and man of his own time.

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