Nederlandsche vogelen by Nozeman en Sepp

Table of contents

The 5-volume work Nederlandsche vogelen (1770-1829) is the first attempt to give a complete overview of all birds that can be found in the Netherlands. The book provides information on more than 200 bird species. For each bird species, you will find a description and a hand-coloured illustration. Thanks to this book, we now know a lot about which bird species were found in the Netherlands in the 18th and 19th centuries and what people knew about them.

Browse through this masterpiece

You can browse through all 5 volumes of Nederlandsche vogelen online:

Are you looking for a particular bird? Then go to the index of bird names.

All 250 plates from this KB masterpiece can also be viewed and downloaded via Wikimedia Commons.

Nederlandsche vogelen: a costly mega production

Scientific interest in nature grew in the 17th and 18th centuries. A lot of research is being done into unknown plants and animals from abroad. But anyone who wants to delve deeper into their own environment has to make a lot of effort to find information. There are hardly any specialized reference works.

The illustrator, writer and publisher of  Nederlandsche vogelen 

Christiaan Sepp and his son Jan Christiaan Sepp studied and drew insects from Amsterdam and the surrounding area around 1760. As professional artists, they create beautiful illustrations. They also try to keep the insects alive at home. They hand out their descriptions and engravings to friends. Jan Christiaan even becomes a bookseller to be able to do this officially. They soon discover a gap in the market. They decide to have the most beautiful foreign books about nature translated. They also look for experts who can write about nature in the Netherlands.

This is how they end up with Cornelis Nozeman, a preacher with a love for nature. He dissects fish and insects and is an early field biologist who goes into nature to study birds in their own environment. The Sepps and Nozeman decide to make a book together about all Dutch birds. Christiaan Sepp makes the drawings and engravings, Nozeman writes the accompanying texts and Jan Christiaan Sepp ensures that the book is published.

The production of  Nederlandsche vogelen 

The book will be a very expensive project. New drawings are made of birds stuffed or shot especially for this purpose. Engravings must be made of each drawing. Because multi-color printing does not yet exist, all drawings must be colored by hand by specialists. To keep everything affordable – both for the publisher and for the customer – the book is published in installments, which can later be bound into 5 volumes.

It will take no less than 59 years before the entire project is completed. Nozeman died in 1786, 16 years after the publication of the first part. His work is continued by the physician and biologist Martinus Houttuyn. After his death, the last volumes were published by publisher J.C. Sepp and his successors. They receive advice from Coenraad Jacob Temminck, the later founder of the Museum Naturalis in Leiden.

Full-size drawings in Nederlandsche vogelen

The birds are depicted in full size as much as possible. This makes it a book of exceptionally large size: 56 by 39.5 centimeters. In the first parts, Nozeman also depicts the associated nests and eggs of the birds.

Practical information in Nederlandsche vogelen

Nozeman's descriptions are often very practical. For example, he provides information about combating birds that cause a nuisance. He also discusses in detail which bird species you can eat, including species that are no longer used in the kitchen today. For example, he describes coots, starlings and ruffs as delicacies. Because Nozeman studied birds in the wild, he also knew a lot about the behavior of birds and their young.

Reissue of Nederlandsche vogelen in book stores

For those who would like to have their own edition of Nederlandsche Vogelen, a reduced reissue of all plates is available. The reprint contains all 250 plates from the 5 parts of the book in 1 volume. The reissue is available in bookstores and was produced by Lannoo publishers in collaboration with the KB. The previous reprints of the book and all texts in the original format sold out in no time.

Browse Nederlandsche vogelen online

You can browse this masterpiece online. All 250 plates from this KB masterpiece can also be viewed and downloaded via Wikimedia Commons. You will find this masterpiece in the KB catalogue under request number KW 1047 B 10 [-14].

Want to know more?

Esther van Gelder
Conservator incunabula