August 05, 2008

Cabinet of Natural Curiosities

A couple of years ago I ended up with a copy of Albertus Seba’s Cabinet of Natural Curiosities. This coffee-table-sized book is divine. It is fabulous, weird, beautiful, and engrossing. I never tire of looking at these amazing etchings.

Seba (1665-1736) was a pharmacist with an incredible passion for collecting specimens of the natural world, including shells, various animals, fish, insects, and corals. In 1731 he commissioned artists to create illustrations of his collections, and this record remains one of the most comprehensive and innovative natural history books of all time.

I have always been fascinated by weird, scary art and so when I was younger, I was drawn to things like this possum with all the little baby tails poking out of its belly.

These days, I more often pore over the colorful etchings of shells and marine life.

I haven’t really gotten into reading the text in the book, sadly. One day I will. But today I am just enjoying looking at the pictures.

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