This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Cabinet of Natural Curiosities: The Complete…

Cabinet of Natural Curiosities: The Complete Plates in Colour, 1734-1765 (1734)

by Albert Seba

Other authors: Irmgard Müsch (Contributor), Jes Rust (Contributor), Rainer Willmann (Contributor)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
494431,071 (4.57)7



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 7 mentions

Showing 4 of 4
A mostly-lovely selection of coloured plates from Seba's great work. I could have done with fewer snakes, I confess (though the way they're drawn is surprisingly nice). The introductory material is of very high quality, and the images are reproduced quite well. ( )
  JBD1 | Aug 3, 2014 |
Last fall, Z fell in love with this book at a fabulous bookshop in Northhampton, MA. He coveted it and read much of it with his grandmere, but it was far too lush and heavy to haul across the country in luggage, checked or otherwise. Upon returning home, we found that the library did not have the volume in its collection . . . paving the way for us to purchase it for Z (and the family) as a Christmas gift. It's now been given a place of honor in the living room and has been pored over many, many times. And I am certain it will continue to serve as inspiration - artistic and scientific to us. ( )
  beckydj | Mar 31, 2013 |
I just hauled this beautiful thing home with me. I love being a bookseller
  paperloverevolution | Mar 30, 2013 |
As a young man, Albertus Seba chose to become a pharmacist. His decision proved fortunate, both for him and for science. In familiarizing himself with medicinal plants, he took an interest in other natural phenomena, including mammals, birds, mollusks, insects and—his apparent favorite—snakes. His success as an apothecary afforded him the opportunity to amass a large and impressive collection. Peter the Great, who trusted Seba's medicinal skill, took an interest in his collection and purchased it in 1717. Seba immediately started building an even bigger second collection.

In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the practice of pharmacy couldn't be learned through books, but only through apprenticeship, often in a variety of locations. After his training was complete, Seba settled in Amsterdam, a port city with a bustling international trade. Seba knew that some of the best exotic specimens were found by sailors, so he frequently scurried down to the docks, ready to bargain, when ships arrived.

Seba was not content merely to collect specimens, he wanted to publish a description of them, a Thesaurus. He engaged several artists and engravers in a massive and expensive effort. The results were 446 sizeable plates, 175 of them double-page, spread out over four separate books. The engraving process Seba used produced mirror images of the illustrations, and for the most part, this wasn't a problem, except for the mollusks, whose shells ultimately coiled in the wrong direction. The initial publication was black and white. This was troublesome for the specimens that couldn't be differentiated without color, so many of the books were hand-painted after publication.

Seba published the first volume of his Thesaurus in 1734, and the second in 1735. The next two volumes were planned for publication shortly afterwards, but Seba died in 1736, and clearing up his estate delayed publication of volumes three and four until 1758 and 1765. By the time the last two volumes were published, Seba's work drew some criticism, largely because it didn't reflect the new Linnaean system. Many critics overlooked the fact that the Linnaean system was only published in 1735, just a year before Seba's death.

Seba's Thesaurus was a beautiful publication, in a large part because the boundary between art and science was still pretty fuzzy. Animals posed artfully, and shells were arranged in decorative patterns. Some of the work was fanciful or even folly, such as the many electric-blue snakes and the seven-headed hydra, yet much of it exhibited an almost unprecedented attention to detail and accuracy.

The full name of the Thesaurus is, with a dual Latin–Dutch title, Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri accurata descriptio — Naaukeurige beschryving van het schatryke kabinet der voornaamste seldzaamheden der natuur (Accurate description of the very rich thesaurus of (the most important) natural objects). Today, the original 446-plate volume is on permanent exhibit at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague, Netherlands.

Recently, a complete example of the Thesarus sold for US$460,000 at an auction.


Easily, one of the most oddly fascinating and beautifully illustrated books ever printed. ( )
5 vote Biomusicologist | Jul 11, 2006 |
Showing 4 of 4
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Albert Sebaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Müsch, IrmgardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rust, JesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Willmann, RainerContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

No library descriptions found.

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (4.57)
3 3
4 18
4.5 4
5 36

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 134,196,566 books! | Top bar: Always visible