Cabinet of curiosities

There were many cabinets of curiosities in the Netherlands in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the cabinet of Albertus Seba, an apothecary in Amsterdam, is an important example. Within a short period of time he assembled a large collection of shells, stones, stuffed animals and exotic natural history objects. When Tsar Peter the Great visited the Netherlands in 1717 Seba sold him his complete collection for 15,000 guilders, and started a new collection straightaway. This even surpassed the first in number and soon became just as famous with scientists and collectors. He allowed his collection to be researched by scientists. Among the many regular visitors to his collection was Linnaeus, who held Seba's collection in high esteem. Parts of it have played an important role in his classification of the natural world.

Around the year 1725 Seba decided to publish his collection. The first two volumes appeared in 1734 and 1735, but on his death in 1736 the last two volumes were still awaiting publication, which did not take place until 1758 and 1765. The collection itself had by then been dispersed all over Europe, after being auctioned in 1752. The plate on the opposite page is typical of Seba's collection. The shells are stored in the third drawer of the ‘shellfish type’, arranged in the form of a bird: Seba had an eye for aesthetic presentation as well as for classification.

It is not known exactly how this copy of Seba's work entered the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, although there is clearly a Hague connection. The binding was made in The Hague and the first plate of the fourth volume is signed by J. Fortuyn from The Hague. We know that the copy of Stadholder William V has been coloured by hand by Fortuyn, because his invoices in which he asked the Prince 160 guilders per volume are in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek. The price of black and white copies, if subscribed to beforehand, was also 160 guilders, but for all four volumes together. Although the former library of the stadholders forms the nucleus of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, it is unlikely that this is the stadholder's copy: only a copy of the Latin-French edition can be found in the lists and catalogues of the collections of the stadholders, no mention is made of this edition in Latin and Dutch.

Literature

  • *De wereld binnen handbereik. Nederlandse kunst- en rariteitenverzamelingen, 1585-1735. *Zwolle, Amsterdam [1992].

Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri accurata descriptio = Naaukeurige beschryving van het schatryke kabinet der voornaamste seldzaamheden der natuur / Albertus Seba. - Amsterdam, 1734-1765. 4 vols. 2º. - 394 B 26-29, vol. 3, plate XXXVI

Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri accurata descriptio = Naaukeurige beschryving van het schatryke kabinet der voornaamste seldzaamheden der natuur / Albertus Seba. - Amsterdam, 1734-1765. 4 vols. 2º. - 394 B 26-29, vol. 3, plate XXXVI