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Vol. I

Vol. I

In the year 1770 the first volume of one of the masterpieces in the ‘book of birds’ genre was published. Its colour plates were made by Christiaan Sepp, draughtsman, engraver and cartographer in Amsterdam, who also engaged in biological studies. The text was
written by Cornelis Nozeman, a minister of the Remonstrant church, with an interest in natural science and biology. The book was published by Sepp's son, Jan Christiaan, a bookseller by profession, but, like his father, well at home in the art of engraving and biology.

16 Item(s)

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16 Item(s)

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The book contains fifty large engravings (27.5 x 42 cm), each portraying one bird, life-sized whenever possible, often with its nest and eggs, all coloured by hand in an exquisite and evocative way. They are preceded by an engraved title page of 34.5 x 50 cm that has been coloured by hand. Each depicted bird has a few pages of explanatory text. There were to be five volumes dealing with 250 indigenous species of birds. The idea of arranging the contents per family of birds had been abandoned, as publication would then have to wait till all families had been complete. ‘Why sadly wait? To proceed with the publication of others is a much more gratifying alternative’. Nevertheless, there was a long period of sadly waiting in store, for it took almost sixty years for the fifth and last volume to appear. In 1775 Christiaan Sepp died (ca. 1700-1775); his part of the work was continued by his son, Jan Christiaan. Nozeman died in 1786, having already completed a large part of the descriptions for the second volume (published in 1789). The remainder was done by Martinus Houttuyn, who also wrote the text for the third volume (published in 1797). Houttuyn died in 1798, and it was not until 1809 that the fourth volume was published, without the name of the writer. The whole venture was completed in 1829 by Jan Sepp (1778-1853), the son of Jan Christiaan (1739-1811) who had died in 1811. Being less artistic and learned than his father and grandfather, he was dependent on others. A major part of the work was done by Coenraad Jacob Temminck (1778-1858), the owner of a renowned cabinet of natural history curiosities. The price for the complete set of books was 525 Dutch guilders, or just about one euro per bird. It must have held the record for being the most expensive book published in the Netherlands for a very long time. But the buyer certainly got value for money!
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