Flora Batava

This volume of the Flora Batava, an illustrated survey of all indigenous plants in the Netherlands, was the first of a long series, a mammoth undertaking of which the last volume was not published until 1934. It was issued in instalments, which the owners subsequently had to bind into volumes. In all, there were 461 issues with 2,240 plates. It was published by the firm of Sepp. Christiaan Sepp, a German emigrant, started out as an engraver. He liked to draw from nature, and took great delight in biology, a feeling which he passed on to his son, the bookseller Jan Christiaan, founder of the firm of J.C. Sepp en Zoon, which established a name for itself in the field of scientific books with plates coloured by hand, based on personal observations. This also applied to the Flora Batava. The accompanying texts were written by Jan Kops. After Jan Christiaan's death the firm gradually fell into decline. Long-term projects, such as the Flora Batava, were continued but new publications were very seldom started. When the firm was discontinued in 1868, publication of the *Flora Batava *was subsequently in the hands of the firms of De Breuk & Smits (Leiden), Vincent Loosjes (Haarlem) and Martinus Nijhoff (The Hague).

Throughout the long publication period there was a change in the technique of its illustrations. Initially copper- plates were used, followed by lithographs, all coloured by hand, but the last four volumes used chromolithography. The illustration reproduced on the opposite page shows a copper- plate coloured in a most exquisite way.

The first volume has a list of 232 subscribers. Little did they know that it would take 134 years for the whole work to be completed, so that none of them was to see the last instalment. As publication took so long, it became a true monument of nineteenth-century book production, since it is extremely rare for so many developments in printing and illustration techniques to be reflected in one single work.

Flora Batava. Afgebeeld door en van wegens J.C. Sepp en Zoon; beschreven door Jan Kops. Vol. 1. Amsterdam, J.C. Sepp en Zoon, (1800). 4º. T 423, vol. 1, title page

Flora Batava. Afgebeeld door en van wegens J.C. Sepp en Zoon; beschreven door Jan Kops. Vol. 1. Amsterdam, J.C. Sepp en Zoon, (1800). 4º. T 423, vol. 1, title page

Literature

J. Landwehr, Studies in Dutch books with coloured plates published 1662-1875. The Hague 1976, no. 60.