The Old Print Shop

Albertus Seba


Albertus Seba was a Dutch pharmacist, zoologist and "collector of curiosities." In fact, his expansive wunderkammer (cabinet of curiosities) was a popular tourist destination in Amsterdam. Situated in a major port city, Seba took advantage of his access to merchants and sailors, offering medicine in exchange for exotic specimens. In particular, Seba was fascinated with the world's biodiversity. His first wunderkammer caught the attention of Russian Czar Peter the Great, who purchased the collection for his own museum. Seba immediately set about amassing a second, which would be significantly larger.

Seba didn't merely collect these specimens. He also documented them in "Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri accurata descriptio" (Thesaurus of Natural Things), published in four volumes between 1734-1765 in Amsterdam. Two of the volumes were published after his death. The series covers snakes, lizards, butterflies, amphibians, mammals, mollusks, fish, fossils, minerals and more. The beautiful engravings are still collected to this day.

After his death, Seba's second wunderkammer was sold at auction, attracting buyers from all over Europe.