Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach, 1710

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Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach, 1710
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W.H.Quarrel and W.J.C. Quarrel, eds., Oxford in 1710 from the Travels of Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach (Oxford, 1928), 24:

'On 23 August [1710] we wished to go to the Ashmolean Museum; but it was market day and all sorts of country-folk, men and women, were up there (for the Leges that hang up on the door parum honeste & liberaliter* allow everyone to go in).  So, as we could have seen nothing well for the crowd, we went down-stairs again and saved it for another day.'

* 'Liberaliter' literally means 'in a manner becoming a freedman'; so von Uffenbach appears to a complaining that the laws lack propriety and gentlemanly decorum.

Note. Von Uffenbach did in fact return to the Ashmolean. On August 25th he visited the museum on the top floor, and left a detailed description in his diary (pp. 26-32).  On August 28th he attended an anatomical dissection in the basement room and recorded his impressions of the chemical laboratory there (pp. 36-8).  His diary also records visiting collections in the Schola anatomica (pp. 19-24), the picture gallery and coin cabinet in what is now the Upper Reading Room of the Schools Quadrangle (pp. 13-14), the Arundel Marbles displayed outside the Sheldonian (9-10), and the Botanical Garden (pp. 2, 55-7).

Von Uffenbach's remarks were sometimes appreciative, but more often acerbic. His criticisms occasionally appear patriotic, and certainly reflect the values and perspectives of a wealthy Frankfurt patrician; but they also demonstrate his wide experience and high intellectual standards. His travels record an indefatigable interest in the learned culture of his day, which gives authority to his frequent comparisons of Oxford with centres of learning elsewhere; and he returned to his native city furnished with thousands of books which grew to become one of the great patrician libraries of the mid-eighteenth century.  

The accuracy of his observations can often be confirmed by other evidence. The passage prescribed above, for instance, should be compared with the archaeological remains photographed in J.A. Bennett, S.A. Johnston, and A.V. Simcock, Solomon’s House in Oxford: New Finds from the First Museum (Oxford: Museum of the History of Science, 2000).  Another example is his unflattering comments on Jacob Bobart the Younger.


Image 1. Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach (1683-1734), jurist, bibliophile and Bürgermeister, Frankfurt am Main

Creators: Roos, F[ranz] (painter); Schenck, P[ieter] (engraver); Schenck, P[ieter] (printer). Description: mezzotint; image 223x183 mm; plate 247x183 mm.

Inscription: Der rechten Wißenschaft nebst Pietaet u. Treu / Wieß, daß ich Franckfurt dir ein Aristides sey.

Source: Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, no. A 22454. From


Image 2. Engraving of the Library of Zacharias Konrad Uffenbach

Source: Bibliotheca Uffenbachiana Universalis Sive Catalogus Librorum, Frankfurt am Main, 1729-31:  License: public domain. From


Image 3: Residence of Z.C. von Uffenbach, Frankfurt am Main

Nordseite der westlichen Zeil vom Roten Haus bis zum Weidenhof [Northern side of the Zeil from the Red House to the Weidenhof], 1793; oil painting by Johann Ludwig Ernst Morgenstern. License: Public domain. From

Description, During the eighteenth century, the Zeil (one of the principal streets in the north of the city centre in Frankfurt am Main) was largely rebuilt as a series of baroque palaces. Von Uffenbach's famous library was housed in the cream-coloured building in the centre of this painting.  For further information, see wikiwand on the Zeil and the Weidenhof.


Credits: Howard Hotson (October 2016)