Symmetry, ornament and lifelike animals
from the early eighteenth-century Dutch Republic
Name: Carina Jacobi Student number: s0231509
Email address: email@example.com
Supervisor: Dr. M. Keblusek
Second reader: Prof. Dr. S. P. M. Bussels
Table of Contents
Introduction ... 1
1. Naturalia collections and natural history... 6
Early modern collections ... 6
Dutch collections in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century ... 9
Early natural history and illustrated books ... 12
Natural history, images and collecting in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century ... 14
2. Rumphius' D’Amboinsche rariteitkamer ... 18
Georg Rumphius ... 18
The publication of D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer ... 20
Dedication, introduction, portrait and frontispiece ... 22
Images and text ... 24
3. Vincent's Wondertooneel der Nature and Het tweede deel ... 30
Levinus Vincent ... 30
Vincent's displays and their religious meaning ... 31
Wondertooneel der nature and Het tweede deel ... 33
Images and text ... 35
4. Seba's Thesaurus ... 41
Albertus Seba and his Thesaurus ... 41
Frontispiece, portrait and preface ... 43
Image descriptions ... 45
Conclusion ... 54
Images ... 57
Image sources... 85
Collecting was a popular elite pastime in much of early modern Europe. Collections could include a wide range of objects: shells, coins, minerals, books, exotic animals, ethnographic objects, ancient artefacts, paintings, dried plants and insects. Collectors studied these at home, where they were also displayed, often in beautifully arranged cabinet drawers. In the Dutch Republic around the turn of the eighteenth century, naturalia (objects from nature) collections were especially popular.1 They were important for the study of natural history, both for academic researchers and for wealthy citizens without academic credentials. Collectors exchanged letters, specimens and visits, thus constituting a social network, connecting people from various social and professional backgrounds.2
Some collectors even wrote books about their collection. Early "collection books", as I call them, such as Ferrante Imperato's (1550–1625) Dell'historia naturale (1599) and the slightly later Ole Worm's (1588–1654) Museum Wormianum (1655), were mostly textual.3 From the eighteenth century onwards, collection books, like works of natural history, had more and often very detailed images. These images, showing multiple objects, can give us much information about how collectors appreciated and organized the natural world, even after most collections themselves have long been lost or rearranged. In the early
eighteenth-century Dutch Republic, natural history contained many elements that we would now consider art or religion.4 Studying nature was seen as a way to understand God's will, and ordering and displaying natural objects in an aesthetically pleasing way was a way to honour His creation.5 Collection books explain both visually and in text how collectors approached this project, what they appreciated in nature, which mysteries of nature they considered fascinating, and which objects the most valuable.
1 Van Berkel, "Citaten uit het boek der natuur", 170; Van Gelder, "De wereld binnen handbereik", 31. 2 Van de Roemer, Neat nature, 49.
3 Science historian Paula Findlen refers to collection books as "catalogues" (Possessing nature, 36). This term
suggests the description of a particular collection (that is, the objects described in the book are also those on display in that collection) like a modern museum catalogue. However, the books analysed in this thesis do not have an exact overlap with one particular collection, as we will see later. Collection books are based on a collection, but may describe additional objects and/or may not describe the collection in its entirety.
4 Van de Roemer, Neat nature, 53–54.
The first Dutch collection books appeared in the early eighteenth century, when collecting had spread beyond a small elite.6 They stood out for their detailed images of natural objects, produced at a time when the classification of nature was an important project in both natural history and collecting, and detailed images were helpful.7 Natural history, as an academic field, had used images since its Renaissance beginnings: simplified woodcut images in printed books, and precise, coloured drawings of natural objects in naturalists' collections.8 The engraved, and sometimes coloured, images in eighteenth-century collection books came come close to these drawings in terms of precision, but, like the simplified woodblock prints, they are part of a book with text. Collection books and natural history books also have different goals: collection books primarily document a collection, whereas natural history books reflect an attempt to describe or understand the natural world at large.
Interestingly, however, many images in collection books do not just show isolated collection objects, but visualise objects arranged in groups, or even placed in a natural-looking setting, as if they do mean to give information about the natural world. The images in the first three illustrated Dutch naturalia collection books are particularly fascinating, since the objects they show are similar, but the ways in which they are visualised are rather different. Georg Rumphius' (1627–1702) D’Amboinsche rariteitkamer (1705) shows objects on a white background, arranged symmetrically on a page (Fig. 1). Levinus Vincent's (1658– 1727) Het tweede deel van het wondertooneel der natuur (1715), the illustrated follow-up to Wondertooneel der nature (1706), shows entire collection cabinets filled with specimens (Fig. 2). Albertus Seba's (1665–1736) Thesaurus (four volumes, 1734–1765), lastly, has different visualisation styles, notably groups of various animals with some hints of a natural background, such as tree branches (Fig. 3).9 What was the purpose of the images in these three collection books, and how does that relate to natural history? This will be my focus in this thesis.
Natural history images have been the topic of many studies in the last few decades. One fascinating point is the apparent realism of these images: they give the impression of
6 Van Berkel, "Citaten uit het boek der natuur", 186. 7 Margócsy, Commercial visions, 41–42.
8 Egmond, Eye for detail, 10
9 The full title for the Thesaurus is Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri accurata descriptio, iconibus
showing plants or animals exactly as the naturalist encountered them.10 However, this realism is deceiving, and various studies have problematized it. The term ad vivum, 'after life', is key in this discussion: from the sixteenth century onwards, it was used to suggest a lifelike effect, as if the image was indeed drawn after living nature.11 However, as art historian Claudia Swan argues, many images ad vivum show phenomena one is unlikely to encounter in nature (such as plants bearing flowers and fruits at the same time), or were copied after other images.12 Indeed, realism itself was considered differently in early
modern natural history: an image representing many repeated observations was considered realistic, in contrast to today's view of realism as representing one unique instance or event.13 Although images ad vivum can also depict one instance, the point is that they represent this instance or combination of instances so accurately that they can be used to identify or even substitute the real specimen in scientific practice.14 The term was used well into the eighteenth century as a promise of such accuracy, including for collection books: Seba advertised his Thesaurus as illustrated after life, even though some of his images, too, were copies.15
Since this unpacking of the term ad vivum, more recent studies have focused on tracing conventions in natural history images, that is, systematic ways in which images differ from nature as encountered by the naturalist. Several studies have explored the distinction between generalized images (the result of multiple observations) on the one hand and specimen portraits (documenting a unique encounter) on the other.16 Recently, cultural historian Florike Egmond concluded that these two types of images were two ends of a continuum, rather than mutually exclusive.17 Another distinction emphasized in recent studies is that between drawings and printed images. Natural history drawings were part of collections, where they could substitute or document a real object. Printed illustrations, however, were more conventional and more abstracted, recording observations rather than substituting an object.18 Natural history images also increasingly made visual arguments:
10 Swan, "Illustrated natural history", 187. 11 Swan, "Ad vivum", 354;
12 Ibid., 359.
13 Daston, "Observing nature", 128. 14 Swan, "Ad vivum", 365–366.
15 Margócsy, Commercial visions, 75; 102–104.
16 Swan, "Ad vivum", 362; Ogilvie, The science of describing, 194–196; Egmond, Eye for detail, chapter 5. 17 Egmond, Eye for detail, 160–161.
grouping specific objects together in one image, using dotted lines to draw hypothetical missing parts, inserting zoomed insets of important details into the image, or altering the perspective slightly as a means of emphasis were all ways to make scientific statements visually.19
These studies focus on epistemic images, created with the aim of conveying information about the world, or making arguments regarding a scientific theory.20 They provide an interesting framework for studying collection book images, but cannot explain everything these images show. Symmetrical arrangements of objects, images of cabinets and specimens spread on the floor, images showing animals from different continents interacting—what are these meant to communicate? To my knowledge, only two studies have analysed the distinction between natural history images and collection book images specifically. Based on the images in the collection books of Johann Jakob Scheuchzer (1672– 1733) and Frederik Ruysch (1638–1731), art historian Robert Felfe argues that they
emphasized the uniqueness of collection objects, which they did through an artistic style, rather than one associated with science.21 These images thus went against the scientific trend towards more abstraction through conventions.22 In a similar vein, historian Emma Spary concluded that the symmetrical arrangements in eighteenth-century collection book images were a religiously-inspired artistic element, even though the images also conveyed scientific information.23 As cultural historian Bert van de Roemer shows, several eighteenth-century Dutch naturalia collections were not just visualised, but also displayed in
symmetrical arrangements, as a way of honouring God's creation.24 Collection book images might thus have been artistic, scientific, and conveying information about the display of the collection at the same time.
The question remains, however, how shared natural history conventions and
religious-aesthetic preferences could lead to such a variety of visualisation styles within the collection book images of Rumphius, Vincent and Seba. This is the question I will answer in
19 Grouping specific objects in order to make an argument: Kusukawa, "Drawings of fossils", 125; dotted lines:
Findlen, "Projecting nature", 99; zoomed insets: Egmond, Eye for detail, 164; slight alterations of perspective: Roos, Martin Lister and his remarkable daughters, 103.
20 Lüthy and Smets, "Words, lines, diagrams, images", 399. 21 Felfe, "Pictorial strategies", 263.
23 Spary, "Scientific symmetries", 6–10.
this thesis. After an overview of the development of collecting and natural history, I will analyse Rumphius', Vincent's and Seba's collection book images. A short biography of the collector-author and publication history of the book serve to clarify how each book was created. An analysis of the preface, frontispiece and contributions by other authors help to understand its purpose. I then analyse the main text, which shows how the collector
collections and natural history
Early modern collections
Collecting, displaying and studying objects in one's home as a pastime originated in
Renaissance Italy around the turn of the sixteenth century, among nobles and professional men of high status.25 A famous early collection is that of the Medici family, who collected objects of art, naturalia and books in their family palace as early as the fifteenth century.26 Less well known are antiquity collections of administrators in smaller towns, that showed off the local past.27 Such practices of collecting were part of the Renaissance, the movement aiming at a restoration of antiquity, and first focused on ancient artefacts. Collecting and studying these artefacts was a way to gain back lost knowledge from classical antiquity.28 Additionally, possessing these objects was also a way to show your knowledge or your legacy; collections were a status symbol. The study and display of objects soon spread beyond antique artefacts to other objects of art, as well as naturalia. Even living plants or animals were collected in gardens or menageries.29
Naturalia such as plants, insects and (parts of) larger animals were often collected by medical professionals, both in Italy and elsewhere in Europe.30 Such pharmacists or
physicians collected objects related to the knowledge and materials of their profession, demonstrating their learning and professional identity.31 They also increasingly used the collection and organization of natural objects as a way to gain control over the continuous inflow of new information when new territories were explored and colonized.32 From the earliest collections onward, there were thus slight differences in contents and focus of the collection, depending on the identity of the collector and the collection's purpose.
Renaissance collections are often referred to as "encyclopaedic": reflecting all that existed in the universe.33 This did not mean that collectors aimed to possess every existing object within the focus of their collection: their preference was for complex objects with
25 Findlen, Possessing nature, 2.
26 Hooper-Greenhill, Museums and the shaping of knowledge, 23.
27 Stenhouse, "Roman antiquities and the emergence of Renaissance civic collections", 131. 28 Hooper-Greenhill, Museums and the shaping of knowledge, 33; Findlen, "The museum", 62. 29 Findlen, "The museum", 61.
30 MacGregor, "Introduction", xx–xxi.
31 Daston and Park, Wonders and the order of nature, 267. 32 Findlen, Possessing nature, 4.
many interpretations and associations, as well as objects that were precious, miraculous or otherwise rare.34 For example, unicorn horns and bezoars supposedly warded off poison in addition to being rare; birds of paradise were also rare, and were believed to keep flying without ever touching the ground, which made them miraculous beings.35 Renaissance collectors organized their objects according to invisible relations between them, often based on associations and symbolism. Theoretical treatises such as Samuel von
Quiccheberg’s (1529–1567) Inscriptiones vel tituli theatri amplissimi (1565) explained how to organize a collection following this system.36 Interestingly, association-based ordering systems were no longer used around the time Rumphius, Vincent and Seba were assembling their collections, but all three collections did include at least some of the objects preferred in the Renaissance.
Collectors did not just have preferences regarding certain types of objects, but also for objects that were extraordinary as individuals.37 One way to make an ordinary object extraordinary in this way was to have a skilled artisan embellish it, or even better, to embellish an already rare and miraculous object, for example setting a nautilus shell in gold.38 Art that imitated nature was another popular theme, such as still life paintings showing very life-like shells, as was nature that looked just like art, seen in objects such as figured stones and fossils.39 By the end of the seventeenth century, however, nature and art were separated in the ordering of collections: nature was seen as created by God, whereas art was created by men.40 Again, however, the interest in extraordinary objects that blurred the boundaries between art and nature did not immediately disappear. In the collections of Rumphius, Vincent and Seba, we also see a fascination with such objects, such as tree-stones (dendrites, which look like nature has painted trees on them), galltree-stones set in gold and embroidery made with shells.41
34 Hooper-Greenhill, Museums and the shaping of knowledge, 34–36.
35 Daston and Park, Wonders and the order of nature, 74; 273; on birds of paradise: see also Transylvanus, "A
Letter from Maximilianus Transylvanus to the Most Reverend Cardinal of Salzburg", 205–206.
36 Kuwakino, "The great theatre of creative thought", 303–304. 37 Daston and Park, Wonders and the order of nature, 260. 38 Ibid., 261.
39 Ibid., 284–287. 40 Ibid., 300–301.
41 Tree-stones: Rumphius, D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer, 287; gallstones set in gold: Seba, Thesaurus Vol I, 82;
Despite the lingering preference for objects that were complex and blurred
boundaries, the general trend in European collections from the early seventeenth century onwards was increasing specialization and systematization.42Naturalia collections
increasingly contained only naturalia, or even only certain types of naturalia, rather than also some ancient or exotic art objects, as they had done previously. The organization of these collections was also no longer based on invisible relations, but on visible properties of objects. This reflected a trend in various scientific fields, where information was increasingly classified into categories based on visible properties.43 Collectors attempted to fit their objects into a hierarchical scheme of categories, a taxonomical table. There was no immediate consensus, however, about what this table would look like and which object belonged where.44 Different classification systems, some still based on classical texts and others on visual properties or materials, existed side by side for much of the seventeenth and early eighteenth century.
Aside from a place of scientific enquiry and display for the collector himself or herself, collections were also important within a social network. Whereas visits to elite collections in Renaissance were highly protocolised and restricted to a small in-group, collections in the seventeenth century became gradually more accessible to a wider audience.45 Some were even open to anybody who was able to afford the entry fee, like a modern museum. Unlike a modern museum, however, visitors were allowed to touch objects, which was considered to be an important part of learning from the objects on display.46 Levinus Vincent's collection was an example of a Dutch collection that was open to the public, although its entry price of 2 guilders, a huge sum at the time, would have limited this public to the wealthy elite.47
Another way of making collections more accessible to a larger audience was to describe them in a book. Collection books typically listed each object, recorded the
circumstances by which it had entered the collection, analysed how it compared to objects
42 E.g. Hooper–Greenhill, Museums and the shaping of knowledge, 137; Felfe, "Einleitung", 13. 43 Felfe, "Einleitung", 13; Moser, "Making expert knowledge through the image", 59.
44 Egmond, Eye for detail, 74.
45 On conventions for visiting Italian princely collections: Furlotti, "The performance of displaying". 46 Classen, "Museum manners", 901.
47 Wijnman, "Vincent (Levinus)", 1105. The original source for this information is the diary of the swiss
in other collections, and gave it some historical context, including the etymology of its name.48 Collection books recorded everything their author had learned from studying his collection, meant for colleagues in the same field.49 As collecting became more popular, collection books grew thicker, including information of interest for both professionals and amateurs (virtuosi, men of high status with collecting as a hobby).50 Sixteenth- and
seventeenth-century collection books did not always include an image of each object, but they did typically start with a frontispiece that showed the entire collection, or represented it allegorically.51
The books of Rumphius, Vincent, and Seba also describe a collection and feature the typical frontispiece. However, they are of a later era, and are influenced by later
developments in collecting and natural history. Some of these developments were particular to the social and religious environment of the Dutch Republic, to which we will now turn.
Dutch collections in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century
Collecting in the Dutch Republic took off a little later than in Italy, and had different emphases. Some of the first Dutch collectors were associated with Leiden University, established in 1575. These physicians and professors had studied in Italy, where the professor and collector Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522–1605) inspired them to not just study books, but also plants and other natural objects.52 Collecting spread to other segments of society in the seventeenth century: many famous collectors, including Rumphius, Vincent and Seba, were medical practitioners, administrators and merchants with no academic training. However, the ties between collecting and science did not disappear. Instead, science, especially natural history, was practiced in these collections by collectors with and without academic training alike.53
Typical for the content of Dutch collections around 1800 was their abundance of (exotic) naturalia, which were relatively easy to obtain through trading networks
48 Findlen, Possessing nature, 36–37. 49 Findlen, "The museum", 64. 50 Findlen, Possessing nature, 40.
51 See Felfe, "Collections and the surface of the image", for a discussion of these frontispieces. 52 Jorink, Reading the book of nature in the Dutch Golden Age, 263.
established by the Dutch East India company (VOC) and the Dutch West India Company (WIC).54 The enthusiasm for exotic animals in particular became a broad cultural
phenomenon: exotic birds, for example, were not just displayed in collections, but were also a popular topic for paintings.55 Vincent and Seba also obtained exotic specimens through trading networks, whereas Rumphius, who worked as a VOC employee in Ambon, sent specimens to Europe via the VOC.56Naturalia collections were the most popular in the Dutch Republic, but collections focusing on antiquities, paintings or a combination of all three also existed.57 As in other countries, Dutch collections became more specialized in the seventeenth and especially eighteenth centuries. They were still "encyclopaedic", but in the sense of aiming to cover a certain category of nature or art systematically and completely.58 In the collections of Rumphius, Vincent and Seba, we can see both attempts at
systematization or classification as well as some continuing interest in complex or miraculous objects.
Religion was an important reason for the popularity of naturalia in the Dutch Republic. Many collectors were Protestants, and part of that religion at the time was the idea that nature was like a book, a second Bible, from which God's will could be
deciphered.59 For seventeenth and eighteenth-century collectors, the empirical study of naturalia was a way to put this idea in practice.60 They recognized God's design of the world in the regularity and beauty of natural objects.61 Collecting naturalia was therefore not a waste of time and money, but a religious practice. This was particularly important because in this same time period, new scientific philosophies, notably Cartesianism and Spinozism, argued that natural phenomena should be explained through mechanisms or laws rather than God's will.62 Collectors used their collections to produce what they considered
54 Van Gelder, "De wereld binnen handbereik", 15; Cook, Matters of exchange, 317. 55 Kearney, "Ornithology and collecting", 57.
56 Bos, "Rariteiten op reis", 8; Beekman, "Rumphius' life and work". 57 Van Gelder, "De wereld binnen handbereik", 30–31.
58 Meijers, "Het 'encyclopedische' museum van de achttiende eeuw", 193.
59 The metaphor of nature as a book was not unique to the Dutch Republic (e.g. Findlen mentions its use in late
Renaissance Italy, Possessing nature, 56.). However, collectors in other countries more often used non-religious ordering principles such as representing the universes in their collection, whereas Dutch naturalia
collectors were directly inspired by the Bible in their selection and ordering of objects (Van Berkel, "Citaten uit het boek der natuur", 190).
60 Jorink, Reading the book of nature in the Dutch Golden Age, 310; Van de Roemer, De geschikte natuur, 89. 61 Jorink, Reading the book of nature in the Dutch Golden Age, 314–316.
62 Cartesianism refers to the ideas of philosopher René Descartes (1596–1650), according to whom the natural
evidence of God's intentional design of nature and argue that such philosophies were wrong.63 Science, religion and aesthetic preferences (order, regularity, symmetry) were thus greatly intertwined in early eighteenth-century Dutch collections, which we will see in Vincent's and Seba's books in particular.
Shells and insects were two types of naturalia often used to make symmetrical, decorative displays. Insects in particular were seen as clearly designed by God, since they were tiny and yet functioned perfectly.64 Vincent organized insects, shells, but also birds in decorative displays, and both the collections of Seba and of Simon Schynvoet (1652–1727) included drawers with shells put into ornamental shapes.65 The reason for these displays was also religious. Although nature was seen as designed by God, nature on earth was chaotic, whereas paradise was orderly. Ordering nature, that is, putting natural objects into decorative arrangements, was a way to make it resemble paradise; a practice that also influenced applied arts and garden architecture.66 Another reason for the popularity of insects and shells was that they were easy to transport, trade and preserve.67 Decorative displays would not be possible without owning the large quantities of (exotic) specimens required, which Dutch collectors could obtain through the VOC's and WIC's trading networks.
Rumphius, Vincent and Seba assembled their collections and wrote their books within this cultural context. Their collections consisted mostly of naturalia, and Rumphius and Seba were involved in scientific research using their objects. All three collectors were also part of a larger social network. For Rumphius, who never left the Indies, contact with collectors in Europe was limited to the exchange of letters. The manuscript of his
D’Amboinsche rariteitkamer, however, was edited and annotated by the previously mentioned collector Simon Schynvoet, who also commissioned the images.68 This
embedded Rumphius' work further into the cultural context in which Vincent and Seba also took part. Seba, Schynvoet and Vincent (for most of his life), all lived in Amsterdam, the
Spinozism refers to the ideas of philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677), who argued that
God's acts follow natural laws rather than being intentional (Van de Roemer, De geschikte natuur, 81–82).
63 Van de Roemer, De geschikte natuur, 94.
64 Jorink, Reading the book of nature in the Dutch Golden Age, 181–182. 65 Van de Roemer, De geschikte natuur, 105–106.
66 Ibid., 124.
centre of Dutch collecting since the mid-seventeenth century, and were acquainted.69 They regularly visited or corresponded with other collectors, notably Frederik Ruysch and
Nicolaes Witsen (1641–1717), and participated in scientific academies and societies.70 Their collections were visited by important foreign guests, such as the Russian czar Peter the Great (1672–1725) and the German nobleman Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach (1683– 1734), which shows their international fame—and the letters and diaries that described these visits are still an important source of information for historians.71 Rumphius and Schynvoet, Vincent and Seba thus lived in a similar, closely connected social context, with shared attitudes towards nature and preferences regarding specimens and display methods. Still, the images in their books are rather different. What were the traditions in visualising nature that could have inspired them?
Early natural history and illustrated books
The works of Rumphius and Seba are considered to be the first Dutch collection books in which each individual object was visualised.72 These books, as well as those by Vincent, were the work of pioneers who had no precedent for such work within their specific cultural context. However, illustrated books about nature were not at all new, and conventions for illustrating natural objects had been developing in natural history since the beginning of the discipline. Some of the conventions and techniques originated in art, but were used in natural history to record observations and make visual arguments.73
Natural history, or the study of plants, animals and minerals, was a central scientific discipline throughout the early modern period.74 Similar to Renaissance collectors, late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century natural historians focused on restoring ancient knowledge, initially about the medicinal properties of plants, found in classical texts.75
69 Van Gelder, "De wereld binnen handbereik", 25.
70 Jorink, Reading the book of nature in the Dutch Golden Age, 325. Scientific academies and societies were a
new type of institution in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, in which scholars and other practitioners of science could meet and present their findings to one another, and publish these findings in the academy's or society's journal. They were often sponsored by nobles or by the state, respectively, and were in principle independent from universities (McClellan, "Scientific institutions and the organization of science", 87–90).
71 E.g. Margócsy, Commercial visions, 1; some fragments of Seba's letters are in Ahlrichs, Albertus Seba, and
some of Rumphius' letters in Buijze, Leven en werk.
Practical information learned from experience was also added, to make classical knowledge more easily applicable.76 The goal of early modern botany thus quickly shifted from
restoring ancient knowledge to surpassing it, by compiling a catalogue of every plant in existence, including newly discovered plants.77 Animals, minerals and other naturalia soon followed, and were described in multivolume encyclopaedic works that contained both references to the classics and empirical descriptions. Famous in this regard are the zoological encyclopaedias of Conrad Gessner (1516–1565), who attempted to document every known animal, including information from classical texts and the observations of Gessner and his informers.78
Images were important for this project of describing all of nature. Plants had to be identified, which is what ad vivum images were used for. However, producing images that resembled an actual plant was difficult, given that for financial and technical reasons, early natural history images were often crude woodcuts.79 Plants and animals had to be simplified and stylized in the image, and only the most important elements of each species were shown: those necessary to identify it, and the parts that were useful, such as an animal's thick fur.80 The question was, however, what type of image best facilitated identification: one that showed one particular specimen exactly, including imperfections such as withered leaves (a portrait), or one that showed the most important characteristics of the species, such as flowers and fruits, together in one image (a generalized image).81 The debate about what exactly was a useful image continued even when technical advances and a growing market made more detailed (but expensive) engraved images possible. Both generalized images and portraits, used exclusively or in combination, continued to be used in the centuries to follow.82
Images were not just used in natural history to communicate visual information to others, but were also central to the research process. Aldrovandi was one of a number of naturalist-collectors who owned many precise, coloured naturalia drawings.83 Typical for
76 Daston and Park, Wonders and the order of nature, 48. 77 Ogilvie, The science of describing, 139.
78 Fischel, Natur im Bild, 72.
79 Kusukawa, Picturing the book of nature, 37.
80 Acheson, "Gesner, Topsell, and the purposes of pictures", 133. 81 Egmond, Eye for detail, 126.
Aldrovandi's collection was its focus on monsters and deformities, both as specimens and drawings, which were part of Aldrovandi's attempt to catalogue as much information about nature as possible, including deviations from the normal.84 Aldrovandi used drawings to explore the variety of animal forms, putting monsters together with the animals they most resembled, and re-arranging the drawings until a satisfactory order had been achieved. Naturalia images, as opposed to actual specimens, could easily be re-organized and moved. They thus proved to be a great aid in the early stages of a new phase in natural history, when the taxonomy of the natural world became the central concern.85
Natural history, images and collecting in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century
The change in natural history from describing to classifying nature is often explained as a result the information overload that resulted from the discovery of species from newly colonized continents, and from the increased empirical attention to plants and animals in known areas, which again led to the identification of many new species.86 The solution to this overload was to reorganize existing knowledge more systematically, by categorizing plants and animals into hierarchical families.87 Again, botany was the first branch of natural history where this happened, but other branches followed, when enough species were known. For large exotic animals, which were rarely brought into Europe, describing remained the main goal of natural history even in the eighteenth century. 88
The shift from description to taxonomy also made natural history more empirical, rather than based on reading books. Its mode of communication, too, changed from thick books with lots of text to publications with more images and less textual information, which became popular among collectors for identifying their specimens.89 Taxonomy was based on external characteristics of plants, animals or objects, especially their form. Images had to how species were different from another, but also how closely related species were more similar to one another than those further apart in the taxonomical scheme, and thus
required a certain amount of detail.90 Engravings, which were more detailed than woodcuts,
84 Fischel, Natur im Bild, 83. 85 Egmond, Eye for detail, 85.
86 Ogilvie, The science of describing, 230; Blair, Too much to know, 12. 87 Ogilvie, The science of describing, 208–209.
88 Margócsy, Commercial visions, 41–42.
became a popular medium.91 Despite their detail, however, engraved images still required some degree of simplification, and emphasized those characteristics most relevant in both distinguishing and relating different species.92
The use of expensive engraved images was made possible because of the increased popularity of naturalia collecting in this period: the market for collecting-related objects and books grew, and publishers and collectors became more willing to invest in images.93 In Renaissance natural history, the publisher had been responsible for producing images, and owned the resulting woodblocks or copperplates, which he often reused for other books. 94 Authors had little influence on the exact look of each image, and the images did not always illustrate the text particularly well.95 However, at the end of the seventeenth century, it had become increasingly common for wealthy naturalists to invest in their own books in return for more control over the images, as evidenced by publishing contracts.96 Unlike the Renaissance woodcuts, these images were made specifically for one work and thus fit the text much better, as was the case for Rumphius', Vincent's and Seba's books.
Interestingly, the naturalist or collector, not the artist (draftsman), was considered to be responsible for how the images looked. Images were seen as the results of empirical study, in which the naturalist, not the artist, was trained.97 Artists were even seen as a threat to the quality of scientific images, because they might depart from the naturalist's observations.98 The ideal role of engravers, too, was to reflect the observation recorded in the drawing precisely, rather than alter or embellish it.99 This is why, even though there were many people involved in producing an image, the naturalist or collector was most likely the one who determined how the image should depict nature.
Despite the growing importance of images in natural history and the fairly
established convention of drawing plants and animals ad vivum, debates about what images should look like and whether they should be used at all still continued. In the early
seventeenth century, the naturalist Federico Cesi (1585–1630) considered pictures to be the
91 Kusukawa, Picturing the book of nature, 37; Kearney, "Ornithology and collecting", 65. 92 Müsch, "Albertus Seba's collection", 18.
93 Margócsy, Commercial visions, 79.
94 Kusukawa, Picturing the book of nature, 47. 95 Ibid., 64.
96 Margócsy, Commercial visions, 76. 97 Daston, "Observing nature", 130.
wrong medium for communicating information about ordering nature, because pictures could never be both generalizable and precise.100 In the eighteenth century, Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) also argued against the use of images in taxonomy, since only language could be objective enough to describe the external forms of plants and animals.101 The use of images in natural history and related sciences was thus established, but not undisputed: their generalizability was considered problematic. More relevantly for Rumphius, Vincent and Seba, who obviously did use images, the conventions for how to show specimens were not fixed either. Ad vivum was the general ideal, but could mean different things for
different species. In the sixteenth and seventeenth century, conventions for showing certain types of animals and plants were established. Many specimens were shown without
context, against a white background. This convention was often used for insects, shells and plants—which were all classified relatively early. Additionally, plants were shown flattened, as if they were specimens pressed between sheets of paper, but bearing the colours of the live plant.102 Larger animals, however, were typically depicted in some kind of environment, with a "floating island" of land and air around them.103 Not all naturalists necessarily
followed these conventions: Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717), for example, made compositions of insects perched on flowering plants.104 Precise conventions for naturalia images were thus still developing around the turn of the eighteenth century.
Taxonomy was also not the only popular topic of study in natural history, nor was it the only purpose that images served. Other interests of naturalists, especially regarding insects, included metamorphosis, ecology (the relationships between insects and the plants they ate) and anatomy.105 The images that were part of such studies showed findings or theories visually, such as the work of insect researcher Johannes Goedaert (baptized 1617– 1668), whose images show butterfly metamorphosis in three stages—caterpillar, pupae and butterfly—placed in a vertical line.106 When microscopic images became more common later in the seventeenth century, researchers developed an almost diagrammatic visual
100 Freedberg, The eye of the lynx, 349. 101 Margócsy, Commercial visions, 71. 102 Ogilvie, The science of describing, 202. 103 Egmond, Eye for detail, 107.
104 Neri, The insect and the image, 141. 105 Ogilvie, "Order of insects", 223.
106 Despite such images, Goedaert theorized that caterpillars and butterflies were different animals; the
language to illustrate insect anatomy.107 These new visual formats had some elements from existing conventions, such as the ubiquitous white background, but were adapted to
communicate a particular kind of information. Images in collection books arguably did something similar: they used conventions from natural history, but used these to show off a particular collection.
Because Rumphius, Vincent and Seba worked at the crossroads of trends in collecting, natural history and the associated books and images, they had a wide range of conventions and strategies to use when visualising their collections. The following chapters discuss how each collector applied these in their books.
Rumphius was born as Georg Everhard Rumpf in Wölfersheim, near Frankfurt, in 1627. He did not go to university, but learned classical languages in secondary school.108 After completing his education, Rumphius left his native country for Holland, where he joined a WIC expedition as a soldier. The expedition failed, leaving Rumphius in Portugal for two years, after which he returned to Germany.109 In 1653, he joined the VOC, again in a military position. This job took him to the East Indies, from which Rumphius would never return.110 He was assigned to a position in Ambon, where he gradually moved up the VOC ranks. In 1657, he became a junior merchant, and in his spare time, studied the local plants and animals, and described them in Latin.111
Rumphius learned the local languages of Ambon and frequently used native
informers as a source, whom he referred to by name.112 Even though he was far away from other European naturalists, he was able to obtain books and scientific instruments through the VOC. Rumphius corresponded with European naturalists and collectors using the same network. In the 1660s, Rumpf started Latinizing his name as Rumphius, indicating his status as a learned man.113 His personal life knew several tragedies: Rumphius lost his eyesight in 1670; his first wife and at least one daughter died in an earthquake in 1674; and in 1687, most of his manuscripts were destroyed when his house burnt down.114 Despite these setbacks, Rumphius continued his work as a naturalist, and used a scribe and draftsman after he lost his eyesight.115 This was also when he changed his writing language from Latin to Dutch, since most scribes did not know Latin. After his manuscripts were destroyed, Rumphius re-wrote them. The scribe and draftsman he used were paid by the VOC.116
Although the VOC helped Rumphius' career as a naturalist in this way, its board of directors also obstructed it, by not allowing publication of Het Amboinsche kruidboek, now
108 Beekman, "Rumphius' life and work", xl. 109 Buijze, Rumphius' bibliotheek, 13.
110 Beekman, "Rumphius' life and work", xlix. 111 Buijze, Rumphius' bibliotheek, 13.
112 Beekman, "Rumphius' life and work", ciii. 113 Ibid., lxvi.
considered Rumphius' main work, for decades. This multivolume work describing Ambonese plants was finished in 1697, but it took until 1741, long after Rumphius' death, until its first volume was published, without the passages that could be harmful to the company.117 Rumphius did manage to send several shorter texts to other naturalists and collectors in Europe during his lifetime. This established his reputation, and he became a member of the German scientific academy Academia Naturae Curiosorum in 1681. This academy, which later became Germany's national academy of sciences Leopoldina, focused on empirical research in practical medicine and natural history.118 Scholars could publish their
observations in the academy's journal, Miscellanea curiosa; Rumphius contributed thirteen such observations between 1683 and 1698.119 Rumphius sent his second full manuscript, D’Amboinsche rariteitkamer, to Holland in 1701. Instead of handing it over to the VOC, Rumphius sent it directly to a fellow collector, the mayor of Delft Hendrik d'Acquet (1632– 1706).120 It arrived in an incomplete state, but d'Acquet arranged for its restoration and publication. Unfortunately, Rumphius did not live to see this book in print either: he died in 1702, three years before D’Amboinsche rariteitkamer's was published.
From the several biographies that have been published about Rumphius, he seems to have been a practical man, studying nature primarily from observation, as well as stories from local Ambonese, rather than books.121 However, he also took the Bible literally, and argued against seeking natural explanations for what he considered to be God's miracles.122 His emphasis on empirical observation should thus not be confused with modern scientific methods: Rumphius aimed to describe, not to explain. Rumphius also followed a classical intellectual tradition: certain aspects of his work, such as the general categories he used for classifying animals, were inspired by Aristotle (384–322 B.C.) and Pliny (23–79 A.D.).123 Indeed, Rumphius' nickname, which he received upon entering the Academia Naturae
117 Buijze, Rumphius' bibliotheek op Ambon, 16.
118 Evans, "Learned societies in Germany in the seventeenth century", 136.
119Miscellanea curiosa is also known under the name Ephemerides. The purpose of the journal: Daston,
"Sciences of the Archive", 169–170; Rumphius' contributions: Beekman, "Rumphius' life and work", lxxiii).
120 The letter Rumphius sent to accompany the manuscript is printed in D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer as
"Opdragt" (assignment/dedication), where it serves as a dedication and a preface (Buijze, Rumphius' bibliotheek op Ambon, 20).
121 Beekman, "Rumphius' life and work", lxv; on Rumphius' use of Ambonese informers, see Yoo, "Wars and
Curiosorum, and was printed on the title pages of his books, was "Pliny of the Indies".124 Literary historian E.M. Beekman regards all of Rumphius' published and unpublished works as parts of an attempt to write a natural history of the Indies, like Pliny's Naturalis
historia.125 Rumphius was thus a natural historian primarily, rather than a collector. He did have a collection of shells and other naturalia, which formed the basis of D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer. It was however relatively small, consisting of 360 objects, and Rumphius sold it to Grand Duke Cosimo III de Medici (1642–1723) in 1682, many years before completing D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer'smanuscript.126 Although Rumphius corresponded with collectors in Europe, and regularly sent them specimens, he was far removed from the closely knit circle of Dutch collectors.127 Also, some of the chapters in D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer describe specimens or phenomena that were impossible to keep in a
collection, such as jellyfish. It is thus quite plausible that the primary goal of his work was to write a natural history encyclopaedia, for which his collection was one, but not the only, source of information.
The publication of D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer
D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer has a complicated history between Rumphius writing the manuscript and its eventual publication. Various people were involved with both its text and its images, which means that the book is not just a product of Rumphius' intentions, or his visualisation of his collection. Rumphius had been working on D’Amboinsche rariteitkamer since at least 1651, the earliest date mentioned in the book, and had also made several drawings for its illustrations before 1670.128 After d'Acquet received the manuscript, the editing and appending of the text and images took about four years. This was a process in which Rumphius could have had very little influence, since he passed away in 1702. D’Amboinsche rariteitkamer thus has two layers: the text originally written by Rumphius, and the later additions by others.
The additions were made by D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer's publisher François Halma (1653–1722) and the collector Simon Schynvoet, hired by Halma to complete the text and
124 Ibid., lxxiv. 125 Ibid., lxxxv.
126 Rumphius, D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer, 163; Buijze, Leven en werk, 250. 127 Buijze, Rumphius' bibliotheek, 18.
images.129 As mentioned previously, Schynvoet was acquainted with other collectors in Amsterdam, where he held several functions as a civil servant and advisor on the arts, and even designed gardens.130 Schynvoet's contributions to D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer, especially regarding the images, are now controversial, since he added specimens not from around Ambon. Beekman therefore argues that Schynvoet's additions did not follow the "spirit" of the original work, and rather served to exhibit his own status and connections.131 Van de Roemer, a specialist on Schynvoet, instead argues that Schynvoet followed
Rumphius' striving for transparency and verification.132 In the references between image and text, Schynvoet used letters for Rumphius' original images and numbers for the new ones, and his annotations explain which Dutch collection each specimen was from. Schynvoet also kept his additions separate from the original text, by placing them in the margins and endnotes of each chapter and using cursive font.133
The style of the images is another point of discussion: was this according to Rumphius' drawings or not? Van de Roemer again argues that Schynvoet followed
Rumphius' style: in his own collection, Schynvoet ordered his objects in ornamental displays resembling those of Levinus Vincent, but the images he commissioned for Rumphius' book, he followed the style of Rumphius' original drawings.134 However, historian Wim Buijze, who has studied the surviving original drawings, points out that these are drawings of loose specimens pasted on paper. 135 The printed images each show multiple objects, ordered symmetrically on each page, as was becoming popular in the Dutch Republic at the time, especially for shells. Rumphius wrote in a letter that he finished his entries on shells before consulting any European book on the subject, so he was probably unfamiliar with the symmetrical style.136 It could well have been Schynvoet's idea to order the objects on each page symmetrically, as a toned-down version of his own symmetrical, ornamental displays.
For a long time, it was not known on which drawings the engraved images in D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer were based. Although not every expert agrees, it seems
129 Van de Roemer, De geschikte natuur, 29. 130 Van de Roemer, "Neat nature", 55–57. 131 Beekman, "Rumphius' life and work", xc. 132 Van de Roemer, De geschikte natuur, 113–114.
133 Beekman states that there is no indication that Schynvoet ever altered Rumphius' original text outside of
the annotations (Beekman, "Rumphius' life and work", xc).
134 Van de Roemer, "Neat nature", 63; Van de Roemer, De geschikte natuur, 118. 135 Buijze, Rumphius' bibliotheek, 21.
accepted now that they are engraved after a set of watercolour drawings by Maria Sibylla Merian, who copied some from the manuscript's surviving drawings, and drew the
remainder after specimens from various Dutch collections, gathered by Schynvoet.137 In a letter, Merian describes making sixty watercolour images for Rumphius' work (e.g. Fig. 4).138 Her own signature style shows insects on plants in a stylized, but non-symmetric format, which is quite unlike her drawings for D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer. Merian thus adapted her style, but the use of colour was her addition; Rumphius' drawings did not use colour.139 Aside from a few existing hand-coloured copies, the printed images in D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer are again in black and white. So, to conclude, Schynvoet and Rumphius, created the visualization style of the objects shown in D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer.
Dedication, introduction, portrait and frontispiece
In the work itself, the two layers of D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer—the work as written by Rumphius and the later additions by Halma and Schynvoet—clash in tone, which already becomes apparent in the dedications and preface. In hisdedication of the book, Rumphius states that his goals are to show collectors the rarities of nature not known in Europe, and to reduce confusion among collectors by registering the different names of these rarities.140 He explains that the rariteit or rarity in the title of his book is a living or lifeless thing that either has a rare shape, or is rarely found.141 Despite the title, however, Rumphius does not just describe rarities in his book, but also many animals and objects that seem quite
common in shape or provenance, such as crabs. He also does more than showing objects and registering their names: his book contains long descriptions of how various animals live and how crabs, shells and minerals were used in Ambon. Still, from his dedication,
Rumphius appears interested in describing nature, rare or not, for its own sake.
Halma's introduction, on the other hand, has a strongly religious overtone.142 Halma repeatedly praises God as the creator of all species and environments, and even includes references to relevant Biblical passages in the margins. Halma also uses the parallels
137 Ibid., 26; Beekman, "Rumphius' life and work, lxxxix. 138 Buijze, Rumphius' bibliotheek, 24.
139 Davis, Women on the Margins, 178–179; Buijze, Rumphius' bibliotheek, 21. 140 Rumphius, D’Amboinsche rariteitkamer, "Opdragt", [*v].
141 Ibid., 1.
between art and nature typical for Dutch collecting culture around the turn of the
eighteenth century, such as comparing the earth to an embroidered tapestry that human artists could never live up to.143 Such comparisons or biblical references are not used by Rumphius, but they would sound familiar to D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer's target audience of Dutch collectors. In Vincent's Wondertooneel der Nature, which Halma also published, Halma only contributes a short poem, rather than the elaborate introduction provided here. This introduction, like Schynvoet's contributions, might well have served to make Rumphius' natural history work conform better to the preferences of Dutch collecting culture, which was probably a good business strategy.
Placed between the pages of Halma's introduction is a portrait of Rumphius (Fig. 5), drawn during Rumphius' lifetime by his son Paulus Augustus Rumphius (1664–1706), who worked as his father's draftsman for a few years until 1688.144 It shows Rumphius when he was already blind from glaucoma, feeling a plant with his hand.145 On the table, there are also several large seashells. These objects seem to represent the topics of Rumphius' two main works: plants and marine creatures. On Rumphius' right, there is a small pile of books, and behind him on the wall are a pufferfish, a lizard, and a shelf with more dried plants. The portrait thus shows Rumphius' main research topics and method of observing objects through touch, but other steps in Rumphius' research process, such as talking to local experts or dictating text to a scribe are not represented. This means the portrait shows an idealized version of this research process, which emphasizes Rumphius' empirical method. Though placed between the pages of Halma's preface, the portrait does not have any elements referring to religion or art-nature parallels.
The final important element of D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer outside of its main text is the frontispiece (Fig. 6), designed by Jan Goeree (1670–1731), a good friend of Simon
Schynvoet.146 It shows a portal with mythological figures in front and a room with scholars examining exotic naturalia in the back. Robert Felfe argues that the mythological figures—
143 "[E]en kostelyk geborduurt vloertapyt, voor de kunst onnavolgbaar". Halma, "Voorreden" in Rumphius,
D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer, ***2.
144 Buijze, Leven en werk, 329.
145 The Latin inscription underneath the portrait means "Though blind, the sharp eyes of his vigorous mind see
and uncover things better than anyone else. Rumphius may be German in origin, but in faith and in his writings he may be wholly Dutch. The work tells all the rest." (translation in Freedberg, "Science, commerce, and art", 404).
Terra, the earth, on the left, and Neptune, the god of the sea, to the right—represent both the elements earth and water as well as the entire globe.147 This is in line with Rumphius' alleged encyclopaedic ambitions. The use of antique mythological figures and symbolism, together with the scholars in the back, makes a connection with the (study of the) classics. Using classical imagery in frontispieces was a way to legitimize new scientific practices in the early modern period, through visually connecting these practices to a much older, antique tradition.148 Although naturalia collecting was already well-established and arguably needed little legitimization, the use of classical imagery did root Rumphius' description of Ambonese nature in the natural history that started with the classics: Aristotle and Pliny.
The frontispiece also refers to the culture of collecting, by showing a room with cabinets in the back, and specimens spread out on the floor in the front. According to Felfe, the room in D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer's frontispiece is a symbolic space, in which the scholars transmit knowledge from antiquity.149 That is, the room and cabinets are a general setting, not an actual representation of Rumphius' collection. However, Van de Roemer points out that some of the cabinets match a description of Schynvoet's collection cabinets; cabinets designed by Schynvoet himself.150 Since Schynvoet and Goeree were well
acquainted, Goeree might have drawn the cabinets in the frontispiece after those owned by Schynvoet.151 The symbolic meaning of the frontispiece was likely more important to a larger audience, but collectors acquainted with Schynvoet might have recognized his cabinets. Within the largely symbolic frontispiece, some elements thus referred to reality, and might have served as a bit of self-promotion for Schynvoet.
Images and text
D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer consists of three volumes bound into one quarto format book, adding up to 340 pages plus an index. The book is illustrated with a frontispiece, a portrait, and sixty image pages showing collection objects. These images pages are placed
throughout the text. Each of the three volumes covers a different category of natural objects: the first volume is about marine animals with a soft shell, such as crustaceans and
147 Felfe, "Collections and the surface of the image", 240–241. 148 Remmert, "Docet parva pictura", 257.
149 Felfe, "Collections and the surface of the image", 241. 150 Van de Roemer, De geschikte natuur, 65.
sea urchins, as well as some other soft sea creatures. The second volume covers shellfish and snails, and the third is about "treasures of the earth" as Halma calls them: stones, minerals and metals.152 Each volume is organized into a few dozen chapters, each of which is about one type of object. Some chapters describe practices related to a certain material or object, such as how Ambonese goldsmiths purify gold, or, in the one chapter that appears to be written especially for collectors, how to collect and clean shells.153 Volume II and III also each have a textual contribution by an author other than Rumphius or Schynvoet: a description of an alternative classification system for shells by the physician Johan Philip Sipman (1666–1725) in volume II, without illustrations, and a short, illustrated description of ambergris by an anonymous author, later identified as Nicolaes Chevalier (1661–1720) in volume III. These contributions were added to the book by Schynvoet.154
In the main text, Schynvoet's additions take the form of cursive annotations at the end of most of Rumphius' chapters, in which also the references to the images are made. Rumphius' text does not refer to the images. The images are thus not essential to
understanding the text, but give additional information. Moreover, the text does not describe the images, unlike in Seba's, and arguably also Vincent's books. There is no exact match between images and chapters: some images show the objects described in one chapter, others illustrate various chapters, and some chapters have no associated image. Without Schynvoet's annotations, it is difficult to understand which image belongs to which part of Rumphius' text. All in all, the images are part of the second layer of D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer, since they were added and connected to the text by Schynvoet, rather than being essential to the original text by Rumphius.
Each image in D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer uses the same visualisation style: it shows isolated objects, without any interaction between them, against a white background (Fig. 7). From the images alone, it is hard to see whether they show individual specimens or
composites of multiple individuals: the objects do not show obvious blemishes that would identify them as individuals, nor are they impossible combinations of multiple specimens. As
152 Halma, "Voorreden", [***3v].
153 Rumphius, D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer", 251–252; 163–166.
154 Beekman, "Rumphius' life and work", lxxxviii. Sipman helped Rumphius consult works in Latin and was his
scribe between 1691 and 1696, so he knew Rumphius personally, and his contributions to D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer might have been Rumphius' idea. It is not known why Chevalier's chapter was added (Buijze,
Florike Egmond argues, this is often the case for early modern zoological images, where the description rather than the image identifies a figure as either an individual specimen or an idealized generalization.155 Following this logic, D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer shows unique specimens, since they are identified in Schynvoet's annotations. The annotations also inform the reader in which collection these specimens can be found.
Despite showing individuals, the images do serve to illustrate descriptions of species rather than unique objects. In some cases, Schynvoet has added images of different-looking specimens of the same species, perhaps to show intra-species variation, although Schynvoet does not explain why. Fig. 8, for example, shows multiple sand dollars, and according to Schynvoet, specimen E and F are of the same species.156 Schynvoet also occasionally
mentions that he could not find a representative specimen, and could therefore not add an image of that species.157 Many chapters, especially those describing practices, do not have either images or annotations by Schynvoet. Schynvoet does not mention what his criteria were for including an image, or whether he followed Rumphius in doing so. It seems that he commissioned images of unique specimens that served to illustrate Rumphius' text, and that could either be copied from Rumphius' drawings or drawn after specimens present in the collections of his acquaintances. Most of the specimens shown in D'Amboinsche
rariteitkamer were not collected or even seen by Rumphius.158
The images of these specimens use the decontextualized style that by the eighteenth century was common in natural history, although shadows do provide some context, and make it look as if the real object is right there on the page. Egmond associates naturalia drawings that have shadows with artistic trompe l'oeil effects, in contrast to the more abstract and diagrammatic effect of naturalia without shadows.159 Indeed, D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer's images look like they were drawn precisely after specimens placed on a piece of paper (the white background). This was not necessarily how such drawings were made: similar images in Martin Lister's Historiae Conchyliorum (1685–1692) use tricks of perspective to bring out the characteristics that distinguish each shell from similar species.
155 Egmond, Eye for detail, 156.
156 Schynvoet's notes in the margins on p. 37 of Rumphius, D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer. 157 E.g. Schynvoet's footnote on p. 54 of Rumphius, D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer.
158 Studies that refer to D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer as a visualisation of Rumphius' collection (e.g. Freedberg,
"Science, commerce, and art", 404) are therefore wrong, as Schynvoet's annotations in D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer, which state in which collection the depicted specimens can be found, make clear.