This photo shows author Alexander Reeuwijk behind a table with old natural history books in Naturalis museum in Leiden, the Netherlands. Like the other photos of this blog post, this is a cellphone photograph, of 19 October 2014.
On that day, as this blog already noted, Remco Daalder, Amsterdam city ecologist, was awarded the Jan Wolkers Prize. This prize is named after famous Dutch artist and author Jan Wolkers. Natural history was one of his subjects. The Jan Wolkers Prize is for the best natural history book of the year in the Netherlands. Remco Daalder’s book is about swifts.
Remco Daalder’s book had been nominated for the prize shortlist along with four other books. One of them was Alexander Reeuwijk’s book about nineteenth century British naturalist and evolution theorist Alfred Russel Wallace and his travels in Indonesia.
The three other nominations were for Mathijs Deen, for a book on the Wadden Sea region; Bibi Dumon Tak for her children’s book on common animals; and various authors for a book on Planken Wambuis nature reserve.
Back to Alexander Reeuwijk. He presented his ten favourite natural history books from the Naturalis collections. These books were from the sixteenth till the twentieth centuries.
The oldest of Alexander’s ten books was from 1553. It was by Pierre Belon from France, about fish. Belon is often seen as the first ichthyologist. In Belon‘s time, fishes were not differentiated from aquatic mammals, aquatic invertebrates, etc. The book discussed over a 100 species for the first time ever.
The copy in Leiden is of De aquatilibus; the Latin translation of the French original.
The book contains many woodcut pictures, including of hammerheads and other sharks.
Alexander Reeuwijk’s next book was from five years later, from 1558. It was by Conrad Gessner from Switzerland.
Gessner’s Historiae animalium was the first attempt to describe all the animals known. Including the lobster pictured here on a woodcut in the book.
The original watercolour depiction of the lobster, used for the woodcut, is also present in Naturalis.
The next book was based on two books, originally in English. Mark Catesby died in 1749. He wrote Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, published 1729-1747. George Edwards wrote A Natural History of Uncommon Birds, published 1743-1764. Catesby’s and Edwards’ books contain many pictures of birds considered as ‘exotic’ by eighteenth century Europeans, like parrots in North America and the Caribbean.
Catesby’s and Edwards’ books were translated into Dutch by M. Houttuyn, and published as Verzameling uitlandsche en zeldzaame vogelen in 1772-1781.
This picture in the Dutch translation depicts, below, a spotted sandpiper from the Americas.
Alexander’s fourth book was Nederlandsche Vogelen, about Dutch birds, by Nozeman and Sepp, published in various volumes 1770-1829.
Book number five was Histoire Naturelle des plus Rares Curiosoitez de la Mer des Indes. By Louis Renard, about marine life in Indonesia. The Leiden copy was published in 1782, after the author’s death.
Next, a book about plants in the Netherlands: the Flora Batava. Jan Kops wrote the first volume, published in 1800.
Then, Histoire naturelle générale des pigeons et des gallinacés (1808). Written by Coenraad Temminck; about pigeons. With pictures by Pauline de Courcelles Knip.
One of Ms de Courcelles Knip’s pictures for the book shows a Mauritius blue pigeon; now extinct.
The next book was about kingfishers. It was A monograph of the Alcedinidae: or, family of kingfishers, 1868-1871, by Richard Bowdler Sharpe. John Keulemans made the pictures.
Then, a book from the USA, by Sherman Foote Denton. It was As Nature Shows Them : Moths and Butterflies of the United States, East of the Rocky Mountains; from 1898.
Finally, another book on birds in the Netherlands: Ornithologia Neerlandica, de vogels van Nederland, 1922-1935. Eduard Daniel van Oort wrote it. Marinus Koekkoek painted the pictures.