Albertus Seba’s "Cabinet of Curiosities" is one of the 18th century’s greatest natural history achievements and remains one of the most prized natural history books of all time.
Though it was common for men of his profession to collect natural specimens for research purposes, Amsterdam-based pharmacist Albertus Seba (1665-1736) had a passion that led him far beyond the call of duty. His amazing, unprecedented collection of animals, plants and insects from all around the world gained international fame during his lifetime. In 1731, after decades of collecting, Seba commissioned illustrations of each and every specimen and arranged the publication of a four-volume catalog detailing his entire collection-from strange and exotic plants to snakes, frogs, crocodiles, shellfish, corals, insects, butterflies and more, as well as fantastic beasts, such as a hydra and a dragon.
Seba’s scenic illustrations, often mixing plants and animals in a single plate, were unusual even for the time. Many of the stranger and more peculiar creatures from Seba’s collection, some of which are now extinct, were as curious to those in Seba’s day as they are to us now.
Our superb, complete reproduction is taken from a rare, hand-colored original. The introduction offers background information about the fascinating tradition of the cabinet of curiosities to which Seba’s curiosities belonged and an additional annex, written by contemporary biologists, provides descriptions of the specimens.
Irmgard Müsch, born in 1967, studied art history, history and classical archaeology in Mainz and Berlin. Her Ph.D. thesis from 1999 examines Johann Jakob Scheuchzer’s Kupfer-Bibel, a richly illustrated scientific commentary on the Bible from the early 18th century. She has published on art of the 18th and 20th century, scientific illustrations and Kunstkammer pieces.
Jes Rust, born 1963, completed his studies in geology, palaeontology and zoology at Göttingen and Kiel. His thesis dealt with the evolution of fossil snails living in the fresh and brackish waters of prehistoric Greece. His assistantship at the Institute of Zoology in Göttingen between 1993 and 1999 was followed by his appointment in 2001 as professor of invertebrate palaeontology and insect phylogeny at the University of Bonn.
Rainer Willmannholds a chair in zoology at Göttingen University, is director of its Zoological Museum, and is co-founder of its Centre for Biodiversity and Ecology Research. A specialist in phylogenetics and evolution, he conducts research into biodiversity and its history.
“The Cabinet of Natural Curiosities is one of the most important natural history books of all time, with detailed illustrations on every item in his collection. The exquisite reproductions showcased here are from a rare, hand coloured original manuscript. Both scientifically accurate and vibrantly attractive, they depict exotic plants, insects, colourful birds and butterflies, and species that are now extinct. It is an intriguing snapshot of a lifetime’s obsession – and of natural science in one of its most fascinating periods.”
— The Lady, London
Gestern nun habe ich erstmal Ihren Seba in den Händen gehalten. Was ist das für ein schönes Buch geworden! Ich war regelrecht bewegt von dem, was da vor mir lag. Ich hätte mir niemals erträumen können, daß ein in allen Details so ausgefeiltes und großartiges Werk daraus werden würde - und daß es Verlage gibt (oder besser: einen Verlag gibt?), der so etwas zu seinen Zielen macht. Ich kenne noch den Begriff der 'Buchkunst' - in so einem Fall darf man ihn