Walking through Amsterdam flea markets with my father in the 50s, I distinctly remember being curious about those small white vellum-bound books in the stalls. Generally merely text, but sometimes I discovered engravings with buildings, maps, plants, animals, or portraits.
In my teens my collecting mania expressed itself by my turning my bedroom into a Wunderkammer: cabinets filled with fossils, minerals, Roman coins and stamps; the walls covered with feathers, framed butterflies from the Brussels World Fair, a set of antlers from the Natural History Museum in London while the requisite stuffed crocodile hung from the ceiling.
In college I scoured Denver, searching for old illustrated books, soon acquiring a 1536 Parisian Book of Hours with interesting historic defacements, a 1598 Venetian Ptolemaic atlas, and a 19th-century book containing etchings by among others, Rembrandt and Callot, all printed from the original copper plates; my collection was off to a good start.
After discovering that a number of my forebears were authors or the subjects of a number of books I decided that I should collect books written by them, about them, or as is the case with the book I am showing here, dedicated to and/or facilitated by them.
Carl Linnaeus. Amsterdam: Published Privately, 1737/8.
The only edition of the first detailed catalogue of cultivated plants applying the Linnaean system of plant classification. The wealthy Anglo-Dutch merchant George Clifford employed Linnaeus as superintendent of his botanical garden near Haarlem from 1735 to 1738. Clifford paid for the publication, illustrated with 36 fine plates, mostly designed by Georg Ehret, arguably the greatest Botanical Artist of the 1700s, producing one of the most spectacular flower books of the period.