Plate 104, Hand-colored
Plate 114, Hand-colored
was a famous
apothecary, intrepid traveler and a trade member of the Dutch East
India Company, but above all else, he was an insatiable collector of
natural history specimens and objects. He amassed an enormous
collection of curiosities over the years not only through his own
travels, but also by bartering with sailors and explorers - medicine
for their exotic finds from distant places. He sold his entire first
collection to Peter the Great in 1717 and immediately began to
assemble a replacement collection that eventually dwarfed the first.
The publication of his Thesaurus; “Loccupletissimi Rerum Naturalium
Thesauri Accurata Descriptio” in 1734 was an effort to permanently
document this new collection.
The designs of the engravings are based on the artful yet scientific
display cases and drawers of the actual cabinets that housed the
objects of his collection. Specimens are arrayed by type, but also
arranged into aesthetically pleasing motifs. The symmetry and systems
found in nature are mimicked in the compositions of spiny sea urchins,
corals, seashells and shellfish. It is easy to see that Seba’s
interest in the diverse objects was not limited to their procurement
or acquisition because as much thought and attention went into the
display and subsequent documentation of them as well.
Unfortunately, Albertus Seba passed away in 1736 just two years into
his venture. To continue funding the publication of this massive
project, Seba’s heirs found it necessary to once again sell the
collection, but this time at auction. As a result, the objects,
specimen, fossils etc. were scattered across the globe. To this day,
surviving items can be found among the shelves and storage areas of
the world’s best Natural History Museums. But thanks to Seba’s
initial concept of preserving the collection in print, for all time
and for all to see, he insured that many future generations would
continue to be astonished at its breadth and scope.