SEBA, ALBERTUS. Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri accurata Descriptio et iconibus artificiosissimis expressio, per universam physices historiam. Amsterdam: J. Wetsten, W. Smith and J. Waesberg (vol. 1 and 2), J. Waesberg (vol. 3), H.C. Arksteum, H. Merkum and P. Schouten (vol. 4), 1734-1765 [-1769 (colophon on 6v in vol. 3)].
4 vols., large folio, 509 x 336 mm., contemporary Dutch mottled calf, gilt panelled sides with outer border of small tools including animals, connected to an inner panel of darker mottling framed with an outer and inner border of a variety of tools including scallops, flower cornerpiece ornaments and centerpiece gilt lozenges of massed flower tools; spines in eight compartments with seven raised gilt bands, black and green morocco gilt-lettered labels in two compartments, a repeated gilt ornament in the rest, board edges gilt, marbled endleaves, edges sprinkled red.
A SUPERB COPY, FINELY HANDCOLORED, SIGNED BY THE COLORIST J. FORTUYN AND LAVISHLY BOUND, OF THE LATIN AND DUTCH ISSUE OF THE FIRST EDITION (also issued with Latin and French text). 4 half-titles in Dutch, 4 Latin titles printed in red and black each with handcolored vignette, handcolored engraved frontispiece in vol. 1, handcolored vignette above dedication in vol. 1 and a handcolored headpiece vignette above each of the 4 opening text pages in each volume, all by P. Tanje after L.F. Dubourg, handcolored engraved portrait of Seba by J. Houbraken after J.M. Quinkard in vol. 1, and 449 ETCHED PLATES, INCLUDING 175 DOUBLE-PAGE, by P. Tanjé, A. van der Laan, F. de Bakker, A. van Buysen, de la Croix, J. Folkema, W. Jongman, F. Morellon, K.D. Pütter, J. Punt and J. van der Speyk; signed in pen-and-ink at the the foot of plate I in vol. 3 ("J. Fortuÿn f.") and of plate I in vol. 4 ("J. Fortuÿn f: Hagae"); plate XCIV in vol. 3 numbered in ink.
Unquestionably the most sumptuous record of any of the eighteenth-century Raritätskammern and one of the most desirable natural history books. Seba (1665-1736), a German-born apothecary and a wealthy member of the Dutch East India Company, practised in Amsterdam where his enormous "Cabinet of Curiosities" became internationally famous as one of the city's essential sights. In 1717 his first collection was sold to Peter the Great of Russia. Most of the text of the first two volumes was written by Seba himself. After his death in 1736, publication could only be continued by using the proceeds of an auction of his second collection of curiosities. Seba's collaborators on the work included many noted scientists of the day, including H. Boerhaave, H.D. Graubius, P. Massuet and P. van Musschenbroek. Possibly the most important contribution was the description of fishes by P. Artedi who worked at the recommendation of Linnaeus (who declined an opportunity to participate himself). The plates depict birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, butterflies, spiders, fish, crustacea, minerals and sixty plates depicting some six thousand examples of shells in beautiful arrangements. The book is also popular for its illustrations of monsters and freaks of nature, including a seven-headed hydra and some almost unmentionable subjects which were probably the result of vivisection. Baron Cuvier re-issued the plates in Paris, 1827-1830.
The colorist J. Fortuÿn was also commissioned to color the copy acquired for the library of the Stadtholder William V, Prince of Orange and Fortuÿn's original invoices for that set, dated 1767, are in the archives of the Royal Library, the Hague. His charge to the Prince is 160 florins per volume, although only the first plate in vol. 4 is signed. Christie's London sold a comparably splendid copy with text in Latin and French, signed on plate 1 in each of the four volumes, on 25 April 1990 (£150,000 to Sourget).
Anker 454; Fine Bird Books, p. 106; Landwehr 179: Nissen BBI 1825 and ZBI 3793; Pritzel 8562. (4)