An Extraordinarily Fine Copy of the Most Impressive Combination of Biblical Exegesis and Scientific Illustration to Be Found in Any Printed Book


(Amsterdam: Petrus Shenk, 1735-38). 415 x 264 mm. (16 3/8 x 10 3/8"). Entirely complete (with continuous pagination, but with a jump in page numbering from the end of book XIII to the beginning of XIV, as usual). 15 parts in eight volumes. Translated by Florentius H. J. van Halen. First Edition in Dutch.

HANDSOME CONTEMPORARY VELLUM, covers with large gilt entrelac centerpiece framed with gilt floral rule with bouquet-like cornerpieces, gilt floral border, raised bands, compartments richly gilt, titles and volume numbers handwritten in ink on spines, all edges gilt. With head- and tailpieces, 15 engraved titles printed in red and black with engraved vignettes, and complete with frontispiece, two engraved portraits of the author and the engraver (the latter with shorter margins, probably tipped-in), and 760 OFTEN STRIKING COPPER ENGRAVINGS (on 758 plates), one with partial hand coloring, a few double-page. Front pastedown of first volume with handwritten note in French on lined paper; with additional black & white title to first work erroneously dated 1728. Nissen ZBI 3661; see also: Faber du Faur, "German Baroque Literature," p. 472. ◆Trivial soiling to the vellum, the seventh volume with a faint marginal dampstain affecting a few quires (but not touching engravings), the odd negligible blemish, but AN OUTSTANDING SET, the very attractive original bindings showing only insignificant wear, and THE CONTENTS ESPECIALLY FRESH AND CLEAN THROUGHOUT, WITH VERY FINE IMPRESSIONS OF THE PLATES.

This is the first Dutch translation of Scheuchzer's "Sacred Nature," one of the most splendid German illustrated books of the 18th century, presenting what surely is the most impressive combination of biblical exegesis and scientific illustration to be found in any printed book. First published in 1731-35 as the "Physica Sacra" in Latin, and as the "Kupfer-Bibel" in German (so-named for the amazing array of copperplate engravings), this work is arranged according to the progression of books in the Bible, citing passages from those chapters where phenomena from the natural world are mentioned. The typical pattern here includes a textual citation followed by the author's often lengthy remarks on the passage and, in many cases, a dramatic engraving to illustrate what is said. The plates are identical to the earlier editions (retaining the inscriptions in Latin and German) and are the work of Johann-Melchior Fuseli, of the well-known Zurich family of 18th and 19th century artists. The engraved scenes are always executed with great skill, are generally very animated, and are often fascinating. Of the 760 images meant to illustrate the text, many are strictly or primarily depictions of biblical scenes; several are simply illustrations of specimens of nature; and a large number, perhaps half, offer a kind of combination. An example of this last type includes a wonderful scene showing the birth of Man (as related in Genesis 1:26-27) depicting not only a startled Adam in his fecund paradise, but also 10 images of fetuses, placentas, and the skeletons of children, attached like mounted specimens to the architectural frame of the illustration. According to Faber du Faur, it is in this work that "the Baroque attains, philosophically as well as artistically, its high point and its conclusion. It is the last of those elegant works which do not really contain illustrations to a text but which are, in effect, composed of splendid plates with a text to accompany them." Scheuchzer (1672-1733) was a prolific naturalist who promoted at every opportunity the most modern scientific ideas, though without wanting to risk the accusation of being irreverent. He says that the present work represents an attempt at finding a harmony between reason and revelation, though it can also be seen as an effort to promulgate progressive theories under the venerable cloak of biblical commentary. The bibliographies disagree about the number of plates that ought to be present in this work and in other editions, but ours corresponds to copies previously sold at auction as complete. Copies of the "Physica Sacra" and its translations show up regularly for sale, but almost never does one see the work both complete and, as here, with a clean and fresh text in remarkably well-preserved and attractive contemporary bindings.

Price: $14,000.00