Johann Conrad Raetzel (1672-1754)

There is not much known yet about the life of Raetzel, who died on 10 November 1754 in his native city of Halberstadt after an exeptionally long life. A manuscript about Halberstadt by Johann Henr. Lucanus (Halberstadt 1742- 1744) says that he had learned the art of pharmacy. Raetzel travelled to East India as an employee of the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, VOC) at the end of the 17th century. There he stayed for 12 years.

When he returned to Halberstadt, he had made it rich. A document dated 24 Auguts 1719 gives his name as "Erbzinsträger" of a brewery. Since 1741 he was city treasurer and obviously enjoyed the respect of his fellow citizens as an inscription at the church of the "Heilig-Geist-Hospital" shows: "Johann Conr. Raetzel: Camer. et Provis."

During his stay in East Asia Raetzel amassed a vast collection of natural specimen (animals, plants, minerals) and objects like coins, weapons, porcelain, boxes, etc. from China, Japan and South East Asia. These items were displayed in his home. As they drew the attention of many visitors Raetzel compiled a catalogue, which was printed the first time during the 1730s:

Catalogus Oder Eine in ordentlichen Classen abgetheilete Specification Vieler aus dem Regno Animali, Vegetabili und Minerali, raren Colligirten Natural- Auch einiger Artificial-Cabinet=Stücke[,] Alle Mit grosser Mühe und Kosten von Japonia, China, Ceram, Amboina, Banda, Timor, Macassar, Java majore & minore Und vielen andern alda herumliegenden Inseln in einer 12. Jährigen Zeit in Asien mit allen Fleiß colligiret [...] von Johann Conrad Rätzeln. Halberstadt.

Some years later a second edition was printed:

Catalogus Oder Eine in ordentlichen Classen abgetheilete Specification [etc. etc.] mit allen Fleiß colligiret und nun zum andernmahl / wegen gäntzlichen Abgang der Exemplarien / auf Verlangen guter Gönner und Freunde aufgeleget Von Johann Conrad Rätzeln. Halberstadt / Gedruckt bey der verwittbeten Bergmännin / Königl. Preu. Buchdr.
Unfortunately the fate of this marvellous collection is not known yet.


Paper on Raetzel:

  • Johann Conrad Raetzel (1672-1754) - Erste Spuren eines Ostindienreisenden und Raritätensammlers. [Johann Conrad Raetzel (1672-1754) - First traces of a German East India traveller and collector of rarities] In: Genbun Ronkyû - Studies in Language and Literature, No. 4 (Fukoka, February 1993), pp. 1 - 14.
    The original print is available as pdf document at Kyushu University Institutional Repository.

  • Complete Text of Raetzel's Catalogue:

  • Catalogus Oder Eine in ordentlichen Classen abgetheilete Specification

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