RUMPHIUS, Georg Eberhard (1627-1702)
Thesaurus Imaginum Piscium Testaceorum
Leiden: Pieter van der Aa, 1711. Folio. (17 x 10 1/2 inches). Title printed in red and black. Text in two columns. Engraved additional title, letterpress title with engraved vignette, engraved allegorical headpiece, engraved portrait of the author, and 60 engraved plates after drawings by Maria Sibylla Merian, several of the illustrations partly hand-coloured at an early date.
Expertly bound to style in half red morocco over original patterned paper covered boards.
First edition in Latin of Rumphius' Ambonese curiosity cabinet: a ground-breaking work on the marine life of the Molucca Islands and the Indonesian Archipelago with engraved plates after Maria Sibylla Merian.
Rumphius "was employed by the Dutch East India Company and spent the greater part of his life on the island of Amboina (Ambon), a small but important trading centre in the East Indies, where he conducted innumerous observations on plants and animals ... Rumphius exercised his talents in the field and amassed a wealth of information on living animals in their natural surroundings" (Dance). His Ambonese curiosity cabinet was first published in Dutch in 1705 (titled Amboinsche Rariteitkamer); the present Latin edition followed. Despite Rumphius' blindness which he developed late in life, and the fact that the work was published posthumously, "even a cursory examination ... reveals the outstanding talents of its originator; for the Amboinese Curiosity Cabinet, despite its unpromising title, is full of accurate and detailed observations on the invertebrate animals encountered by him and mollusks are given special attention ... First and foremost he was a brilliant field naturalist ... In the consistent and accurate recording of locality data, Rumphius was far ahead of his time and no less noteworthy is his attention to molluscan ecology, in which field he must be considered a pioneer" (Dance). Rumphius's original drawings were destroyed in a fire on Amboina in 1687, and by that point his blindness prohibited him from drawing new specimens himself. The plates in the posthumously published work were engraved after drawings by Maria Sybilla Merian, commissioned expressly for the work. Merian's original drawings are in the Archives of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburgh, attributed to her largely on the basis of a 1771 description of the collection by Johann Zacharias Uffenbach. See Wettengl for a detailed description of her drawings. "The 60 magnificent copper engravings may be separated into the following categories: crabs (12), sea-urchins & starfish (4), snails & muscles (33), and petrifications and minerals (11)" (Schuh).
Dance, pp. 46-50; Landwehr VOC 592; Nissen ZBI 3250; Schuh 4212 ("very scarce"); Wettengl 161(Dutch edition).