Added fine allegorical title, vignette on printed title, fine port. of Rumpf, five head- & tail-pieces, & 60 fine plates (all engraved; two small & unimportant wormholes in outer margin to the final 50 plates, not touching the images). Title printed in red & black. 18 p.l. (incl. added title & port.), 340,  pp. Folio, cont. blind-stamped panelled pigskin over wooden boards, Jesuit stamp in center of upper cover, orig. clasps & catches. Amsterdam: F. Halma, 1705.
First edition, and a magnificent copy, of this notable cabinet catalogue, which describes Rumpf’s great collection of marine flora and fauna, minerals, and fossils. This is one of the most important of the early shell books: “A signal early modern publication on shells…The very title of The Ambonese Curiosity Cabinet places the book in dialogue with collections of the time, whose curious contents redounded to the social, epistemological, and political credit of their owners.”–Claudia Swan, “The Nature of Exotic Shells,” in Bass et al., Conchophilia. Shells, Art, and Curiosity in Early Modern Europe (Princeton University Press: 2021), p. 22–(Rumpf’s book is continually referred to throughout).
Rumpf (1627-1702), went to Amboina, a relatively small island in the Banda Sea west of New Guinea, in 1653. There he gathered natural history specimens and experienced a remarkable series of disasters: he went blind, his wife was killed in an earthquake, the original drawings for his Herbarium Amboinense were consumed in a fire, and the manuscript of the first six books of the same work was destroyed during a French military action.
“This remarkable man 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 innumerable observations on plants and animals…Day by day Rumphius accumulated manuscript descriptions and drawings of everything he observed. Alas, total blindness robbed him of the chance to publish his work himself…Even a cursory examination of the Amboinsche Rariteitkamer 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 molluscs are given special attention.…He was a brilliant field naturalist. He was also a man with a remarkable gift for descriptions.”–Dance, Shell Collecting. An Illustrated History, pp. 46-48.
The finely engraved added title-page is a masterpiece. We see a shell museum with a group of scholars studying and arranging shells, with cabinets flanking and behind them. The room is viewed through an arch with a shell-cartouche, with “Arcimboldo”-like shell grotesques, flanked by statues of Cybele and Poseidon. Bearers bring baskets and boxes of shells and other specimens to the scholars. An East Indian landscape is in the background. The fine portrait shows the blind Rumpf at his desk, surrounded by books, shells, plants, and other natural history objects.
Very fine copy. Most of the engraved plates are after drawings by Maria Sybilla Merian.
❧ Casey Wood, p. 545–“This rare folio is important because of its early descriptions and depiction of faunal (mainly marine) life in the Dutch East lndies (the Moluccas especially) at the end of the seventeenth century.” Schuh, Mineralogy & Crystallography: A Biobibliography, 1469 to 1920, 4210–“Rare.” Wilson, The History of Mineral Collecting 1530-1799, pp. 191 & 222.
Item ID: 7699