67 hand coloured copper engraved plates (20 folding), from Seba’s extraordinary cabinet of curiosities, occasional light foxing, plate 35 repaired close tear, later half calf, folio, Amsterdam, Jansson-Waesberg, 1735
One of the greatest natural history books of all time, and the most finely illustrated and lavish record of an eighteenth-century natural history cabinet. The stunning plates depict snakes from all parts of the world, sometimes set in natural habitat, sometimes with numerous species on one plate, the double-page plates are extraordinary.
Albertus Seba (1665-1736), the son of a Frisian peasant, became an apothecary in Amsterdam and amassed a considerable fortune in the service of the Dutch East India Company. His wealth and contacts enabled him to accumulate an internationally renowned collection of natural wonders, and his private museum was one of the ‘sights’ of Amsterdam and was visited by both nobility and naturalists. In 1717 he sold his collection to Peter the Great for the then enormous sum of 15000 guilders, but embarked immediately upon forming a second collection, even grander than the first. It is part of this second collection which is commemorated in the present work, published over thirty years with no expense spared in its production. Seba himself died in 1736, after the first two volumes had appeared. His collection was auctioned in 1752 in order to provide funds to complete the publication. The drawings of plants are now in the State Herbarium at Leiden. A collection of fossils and minerals, known as the Seba collection, is in the Palaeontological Museum in Copenhagen. It was purchased at the 1752 auction by Count Moltke.