"Some remarkable Books, Antiquities, Pictures and Rarities of several kinds, scarce or never seen by any man now living."
October 31, 2012 1:35 PM   Subscribe

Musæum Clausum is a catalog of invented books, pictures and antiquities written by 17th Century Englishman Sir Thomas Browne. It is a fantastical and witty meditation on the ravages of time on literature and other works of man. The Musæum Clausum is perhaps the finest example of the invented, or invisible, library, a genre which seems to have originated with Rabelais. The genre has been of special interest to Beachcombing's Bizarre History Blog (older posts), where he has written about the invisible libraries of writers such as Charles Dickens, Neil Gaiman, H. P. Lovecraft and invisible libraries in video games. The natural medium for invisible libraries might be pictures, and Musæum Clausum inspired a suite of etchings by Erik Desmazieres.
posted by Kattullus (30 comments total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
See also, Roberto Bolano's diverting Nazi Literature in the Americas.
posted by shothotbot at 1:38 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

The MetaFilter Invisible Library

1. The Treaty of Westphalia: Debunking the Myths
2. Beans: An Illustrated Cultural History: 42 Full-Color Plates
3. Home Decorating Guide to Professional White Backgrounds
4. The collected TL;DR (472 volumes)
posted by oulipian at 1:53 PM on October 31, 2012 [5 favorites]

Wonderful post. Since we're talking about the altogether excellent Sir Thomas Browne may we also mention the Pseudodoxia Epidemica...
posted by Segundus at 2:00 PM on October 31, 2012

5. On the Trail of the Digital Assassin
6. The Things You Should Not Eat: A Thousand and One Recipe
7. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Feline Scanning
8. What Happened to Paphnuty? - Truth, Lies and Revolution
posted by Kattullus at 2:01 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

9. MetaFilter: a compendium of taglines
10. DTMFA for dummies
11. When there is no Coldchef: body disposal in the wild, a step-by-step guide to plumbing and dissection. (Author: S. Carabic)
12. Fixed that for you: A comprehensive style guide for snarkers
posted by iamkimiam at 2:13 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

What a great post! My small addition to the catalog of invented books is called Shawlman's packet and it is mentioned in the Dutch 19th century novel Max Havelaar by Multatuli. It's a list of 147 articles and essays. I love the broad scope and the mix of general and super specialized topics.


13. Taters, a love story
posted by ouke at 2:17 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

14. Why Can't This Book Exist?, and other self-contradicting theses
15. The Fedoras of Madison County
16. A Spammer in the Rye
posted by cortex at 2:20 PM on October 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

See also A Perfect Vacuum, by Stanisław Lem.
posted by cog_nate at 2:26 PM on October 31, 2012

17 .
posted by iamkimiam at 2:34 PM on October 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

18. Banjos and Other Thoughtful Gifts of Wooing
19. Thieves with Cameras
20. One Hundred Bottles of Pepsi Blue, and Other Campfire Singalongs for the Corporate Age
21. Go Tell It on the MeTa
posted by Kattullus at 2:51 PM on October 31, 2012

22. It's a mod, mod, mod, mod, mod, mod, mod world: the secret diaries of a $20 town heist.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:55 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

23. This One Book I Read When I Was Thirteen, It Was Kind of Dystopian, But In the Present Day, So Maybe It Was Alternate History, Anyway There Were Aliens But I Don't Think It Was John Christopher And There Were Moody Though Resourceful Teenagers But I Don't Think It Was William Sleator, Could It Maybe Have Been Diana Wynne Jones? That Doesn't Sound Right, But It Feels Right, You Know? And Also There Was a Dog
posted by Iridic at 3:00 PM on October 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

Interesting. Somewhat unrelated but it reminds me of The Infinite Library.
posted by o310362 at 3:23 PM on October 31, 2012

24. De Somno Normannorum: Concerning Those Dreams in which We Find Ourselves Transfigured into Northmen
posted by Iridic at 3:24 PM on October 31, 2012 [7 favorites]

25. The Things That Were Eaten: A Treasury of Free-Verse
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:33 PM on October 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

26. Cataloguing the world's known crystalline ice structures.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:37 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Erik Desmazieres deserves a FPP in his own right, not least for his fabulous images of Borges' Library of Babel (by Escher out of Piranesi).
posted by verstegan at 3:46 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

27. Neutral Moresnet: Anatomy of a Hoax.
posted by carter at 4:47 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

28. What's all this? I was just looking to buy a car by Todd Lokken.
29. Deskology 101: An introduction, including a complete bibliography of Marxist and postmodernist analysis of desks.
30. Later on, he fought a yeti: Ephemera of online subcultures in the 21st century
31. Should I eat these plums? Medications on the sweetness, temperature and degree of decomposition of the genus Prunus.
32. Mods vs Rockers: Who run this town? Foreword by M. Blaster, Msc.
33. Blue, Green, Gray: The impact of colour on the human psyche
posted by ersatz at 5:14 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

34. The Decline of Phrenological Courtship
35. Meretricious Protocol in Late Early Medieval Samarkand
36. A Review of Erotic Classics in Braille
37. A History of the End of History
38. The Fog of War: Miasmatical Theories of Fortification
39. The Quine Reductio
40. On the Feeding of Infants to Ogres
41. The Institution of Parasitic Concubinism in the Northern Gandwana
42. The Grimoire of the Paranoiac Deipnosophists
posted by adoarns at 5:29 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I never understood the geography of the Library of Babel. From the description (my poor translation):

"The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite, and perhaps infinite, number of hexagonal galleries with vast ventilation holes, ringed with low balustrades, in their middles. From each hexagon can be seen the floors above and below: interminably. The distribution of the galleries is invariable. Twenty bookcases, five long bookcases per side, cover all the sides but two [...] One of the free sides opens onto a narrow vestibule, which opens onto another gallery, identical to the first and to all of them. To the right and the left of the vestibule there are two minuscule cabinets. One permits an upright sleep; the other, the basic necessity of life. Through here passes the spiral staircase, stretching downward and upward into remote space."

It reads to me as though there are only two ventilation shafts, the last face of the hexagon presumably being blank. Why, then, do people depict it like this? Am I misreading the story?

I should really get that cultural history of beans. I've heard the plates are well made.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:29 PM on October 31, 2012

Dammit, Rustic Etruscan, I was supposed to get some work done tonight and now I am thinking of this.
posted by carter at 5:58 PM on October 31, 2012

43. The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of No Romeo, by Anonymous. A short essay by an unknown soul who has been ill-starred while traversing the sea of romance.
44. On the Discussion of Feline Claws. A learned treatise, drawing upon the wisdom of the philosophers of antiquity and the moral teachings of the Church Fathers, on why a man or woman of good manners should never mention the subject of removing feline claws in polite company.
45. Silva Eroticae. A compilation of anecdotes from many cultures regarding the felicitous discovery of erotica in woodland areas.
46. Le poisson dans le pantalon, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The unfinished follow-up to Le Petit Prince, who in this story meets Le Quonsar secret, who gives him le poisson dans le pantalon.
posted by Kattullus at 6:53 PM on October 31, 2012

##. A diverse list of spurious random artifacts from imaginations.

The funny thing about Sir Thomas Browne's list is that he isn't just making up random shit for the heck of it. Most things on his list are interesting extrapolations of existing historical documents...

for example, a rare picture:

25. Milltiades, who overthrew the Persians at the Battel of Marathon and delivered Greece, looking out of a Prison Grate in Athens, wherein he died, with this Inscription...

I can easily see this as a Neo-Classical painting by Jacques-Louis David...
posted by ovvl at 7:56 PM on October 31, 2012

This is so great I had to see the Wikipedia article before I believed it was...um..."real". Just sent it to my Kindle for safekeeping. Thanks.

I'll just add 47: Der Huettekater. A nonsens-Booke of Verse for Children, with divers wonderfull Illustrations, which to the innitiated will appear so many Emblemata of the Wisdom of the antient Gyptians & Chaldees, by Theophrastos Süß.
posted by uosuaq at 7:58 PM on October 31, 2012

ovvl: The funny thing about Sir Thomas Browne's list is that he isn't just making up random shit for the heck of it. Most things on his list are interesting extrapolations of existing historical documents...

Absolutely, for instance, Ovid himself claims to have written poetry in Getic in his Letters from the Black Sea. One of the great things about Musæum Clausum is that you get the feeling that this was a list he'd been adding to for years, containing things he wished existed.
posted by Kattullus at 8:05 PM on October 31, 2012

Oh man, I've had a list like that rattling around in my head for years. It includes Caddy's chapter in The Sound and the Fury, the finished Pale King, and the complete bibliography of Franz Hellens, whose work has apparently vanished.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:25 PM on October 31, 2012

Browne previously.

I used to work with the guy who runs penelope.uchicago.edu.
posted by kenko at 9:59 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I remember reading about this in The Rings of Saturn . Which also discusses a short story called "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" by Jorge Luis Borges about a fictional encyclopedia which alters reality. So maybe there is a plate of beans being summoned into existence somewhere as we type....

Fun fact: Sir Thomas Browne's skull has been on some unfortunate post death adventures
posted by Erberus at 10:16 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

48. Favorites and Flags: An inside look at the pluses and minuses of modding Metafilter
49. The Self-Linkers Guide to Not Getting Banhammered
50. FPPs Vol.2: How to quit thread - sitting, shitting, and derailing in 4 easy steps. (Including how to figure out that pesky ??? 3rd step, AND how to actually PROFIT!!! from the 4th.)
posted by P.o.B. at 3:33 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

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