“A Christmas present of real and enduring value” : Ferdinand Seidel’s Natural History with 179 Copperplate Engravings.

“Buy 5 Get 1 Free” – that is how the publisher advertised the 1805 edition of Ferdinand Seidel’s Naturhistorisches Kupferwerk : mit erklärendem Texte nach Büffon, acquired this fall by Special Collections (Rare Book – Chapin-Horowitz  QH45. B84 S45 1805).

Title page of Ferdinand Seidel, Naturhistorisches Kupferwerk : mit erklärendem Texte nach Büffon, Rare Book - Chapin-Horowitz QH45. B84 S45 1805

Title page of Ferdinand Seidel, Naturhistorisches Kupferwerk : mit erklärendem Texte nach Büffon, Rare Book – Chapin-Horowitz QH45. B84 S45 1805

This rare volume, the title of which roughly translates as “Natural History in copper plates, with explanatory text following Buffon” makes a wonderful addition to our Chapin-Horowitz Collection of Cynographica. Unlike Buffon’s ten-volume standard scientific work, Seidel’s one volume (the originally planned second volume was never published) intended to reach a more general audience: lovers and amateurs of natural history, as well as juveniles. Newspaper advertising and reviews emphasize that the heavily illustrated volume would both educate and entertain, and thus be a “Christmas present of real and enduring value.”

Copperplate engraving of a pug, one of the 20 dog engravings found in the volume. Ferdinand Seidel Naturhistorisches Kupferwerk… Rare Book - Chapin-Horowitz QH45. B84 S45 1805. Plate 67

Copperplate engraving of a pug, one of the 20 dog engravings found in the volume. Ferdinand Seidel Naturhistorisches Kupferwerk… Rare Book – Chapin-Horowitz QH45. B84 S45 1805. Plate 67

And given that there are more copperplate engravings (179) than pages of explanatory text (155), Seidel was likely right on track to achieve that goal. Reviews praise the quality and quantity of the illustrations, though at least one reviewer would have preferred if Seidel had copied not the black & white ‘Buffon-style’ illustrations but instead had chosen  illuminated copperplates of the kind that adorn naturalist J.C.D. Schreber’s (1739-1810) books.

Copperplate engraving of an Indian rhinoceros, based on the 1749 painting Clara le Rhinoceros by Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686-1755). Ferdinand Seidel Naturhistorisches Kupferwerk… Rare Book - Chapin-Horowitz QH45. B84 S45 1805. Plate 166

Copperplate engraving of an Indian rhinoceros, based on the 1749 painting Clara le Rhinoceros by Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686-1755). Ferdinand Seidel Naturhistorisches Kupferwerk… Rare Book – Chapin-Horowitz QH45. B84 S45 1805. Plate 166

Nevertheless, the artists and engravers of Seidel’s natural history volume were well-known men, like Jacques de Sève (fl. 1742-1788), Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686-1755), Johann Martin Bernigeroth (1713 – 1767) – and maybe more surprisingly, at least one woman: Johanna Dorothea Phillip (nee Sysang) (1729-1791), who had learned the art of copperplate engraving from her father, Johann Christoph Sysang (1703-1757).

Copperplate engraving of a weasel and an ermine by Johanna Dorothea Phillip. Ferdinand Seidel Naturhistorisches Kupferwerk… Rare Book - Chapin-Horowitz QH45. B84 S45 1805. Plate108

Copperplate engraving of a weasel and an ermine by Johanna Dorothea Phillip. Ferdinand Seidel Naturhistorisches Kupferwerk… Rare Book – Chapin-Horowitz QH45. B84 S45 1805. Plate108

Swem Library’s 1805 edition of Seidel is not only very rare (WorldCat shows Swem’s copy as the only one in the United States and one of only 3 in libraries around the World) it also has a unique feature. It bears signatures of two nineteenth century owners, G. Muller and E. Bodenhoff, who, as research conducted as part of the cataloging process shows, are most likely General Frederik Gotthold von Müller (1795-1882) and Ernst Emil Bodenhoff (1852-1934), both of whom were connected to the royal court of Denmark, Mueller as courtier and Bodenhoff as his biographer.

So now more than 200 years after Seidel’s Natural History,was first published, William & Mary Libraries is doing its part to assure the enduring value of the volume, so it can continue to fulfill the author’s mission to educate and entertain. We invite you to come and take a look for yourself!

Copperplate engraving of a Siberian Husky, another one of 20 dog engravings found in the volume. Ferdinand Seidel Naturhistorisches Kupferwerk… Rare Book - Chapin-Horowitz QH45. B84 S45 1805. Plate 53

Copperplate engraving of a Siberian Husky, another one of 20 dog engravings found in the volume. Ferdinand Seidel Naturhistorisches Kupferwerk… Rare Book – Chapin-Horowitz QH45. B84 S45 1805. Plate 53

Reviews consulted:                                                                                                               Zeitung für die elegante Welt Berlin: Mode, Unterhaltung, Kunst, Theater, Band 9, 1809; Allgemeine Literaturzeitung ALZ Num. 208, August 1806;                                     Allgemeine Chronik, Gera, No. 97, 1804.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thought on ““A Christmas present of real and enduring value” : Ferdinand Seidel’s Natural History with 179 Copperplate Engravings.

  1. This is a wonderful addition especially since, if I remember correctly, there are not many illustrated pre-1820 imprints in the collection, and those that are from that period are likely to be in English. It’s great that the two nineteenth-century owners who signed the book were prominent enough to be identifyable.

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