Cabinet of Curiosities

What kid doesn’t love picking up shells on the beach, or finding a bird’s egg or snake’s rattle, or—treasure of treasures—a fossil? Then taking it home to put on a shelf or in a shoebox? That same impulse has, since the Age of Exploration, motivated collectors to turn their passion into amazing “cabinets of curiosities”— collections of beautiful and unusual objects that in many cases became the seeds of the world’s great natural history museums.

Cabinet of Curiosities is exactly the book for every young explorer who loves finding stuff in nature and bringing it home. Lavish, oversize, illustrated, and chock-full, it introduces kids to the wonders of natural history and the joys of being an amateur scientist and collector. Nature writer Gordon Grice, who started his first cabinet of curiosities at age six when he found a skunk’s skull, explains how scientists classify all living things through the Linnaeus system; how to tell real gold from fool’s gold; how to preserve butterflies, crab shells, feathers, a robin’s egg, spider specimens, honeycombs—and a skunk’s skull (and other skulls and bones); how to identify seashells; the difference between antlers and horns; what a thunder egg is and where to find it; the metamorphosis of cicadas; what a porcupine quill is made of; what to do with a shark’s tooth; how to read animal tracks. And then, what to do with your specimens, including how to build a cabinet of curiosities out of common household objects, like a desk organizer or a box for fishing tackle.

Reviewed in New York Times

I take some kids collecting--from the publisher's blog

Mentioned in Baltimore Sun

Reviewed in Boys' Life

Wisconsin Public Radio's Central Time interviews me about Cabinet of Curiosities

Science Friday interviews me

Read an excerpt about bones (courtesy of Science Friday)

Reviewed on Boing Boing


  1. Gordon, I came upon your Cabinet of Curiosities book today, quite randomly, on Amazon. Even though it seems meant for a younger set, it is in my Amazon cart--looks great! PS: I have a book coming out in May. My working title for the longest time was Cabinet of Curiosities: Talismans from New England Rambles! It's an essay collection and has since been renamed The Book of Noticing: Collections and Connections on The Trail.

  2. Sounds like my kind of book! Here's a liink for others who may be interested:

  3. Gordon,your book was quite awesome,but the illustration for fiddler crab in Chinese edition was wrong.I think it is a river crab. Can you please check it.

    1. Thanks for the heads-up! I'll look into it.

    2. OK, having looked into it a bit--I'm not sure! It does resemble photos I'm seeing of the Cape river crab (Potamonautes perlatus). But I think it's actually a red-jointed fiddler crab (Uca minax). It resembles photos of that species, too. The trouble is, the photo we used in the book doesn't show some of the finer anatomical characters that would help with an ID, such as depressions on the carapace. It seems unlikely that our photo supplier got this one wrong, since the two species live in different parts of the world, but it's possible. So I think we got the ID right, but . . .

  4. It was books like this & the tatty old style museums which inspired me first to collect as a child. But being a collector on a meager income, restricted my acquisitions?

    Soloution. I took to creating my own pseudo object & faux artifacts in homage to the items I could not afford to purchase.

    This in time led to in June 2017 my 1st solo sculpture exhibition at the award winning Helston Museum, in Cornwall. Newspapers dubbed the 'Kuriology' exhibition as the 'Museum of the Impossible', all exhibits based upon my own perception of 'Cabinet of Curiosities' objects.

    ...and now some of my 'Kuriology' creations are in their own right objects of desire in private collector oddity wunderkammer 'Cabinet of Curiosities'

    ..possibly to turn up in books of a similar topic in the future?


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