Monday, May 9, 2011

An Old Book With a Large Impact on Reptile Names

Recently the Guardian carried a short blub about a re-print of a old book by Albert Seba. Albert Seba was an early 18th century pharmacist in Amsterdam who purchased natural history specimens from sailors in an effort to find exotic plant and animal products he could use for pharmacetitcal purposes. His interest expanded and he collected snakes, lizards, birds, insects, and mollscus. About 1711 he supplied drugs to the Russian court in Saint Petersburg and promoted his collection to the Russians. Early in 1716 Peter the Great bought Sebae's complete collection. In October 1728 Seba had become a Fellow of the Royal Society and he was visited by Carl Linne in 1735 Linnaeus. In 1752, several years after his death, Seba's second collection went on auction in Amsterdam. In 1734 Seba published a Thesaurus of animal specimens with exceptiopnal engravings. The Thesaurus' title had Latin and Dutch components: Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri accurata descriptio — Naaukeurige beschryving van het schatryke kabinet der voornaamste seldzaamheden der natuur (Accurate description of the very rich thesaurus of the principal and rarest natural objects). The last two of the four volumes were published after Sebea's death (1759 and 1765). The original 446-plate volume is on permanent exhibit at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague, Netherlands. Recently, a complete example of the Thesaurus sold for US $460,000 at an auction. In 2001, Taschen Books published a reprint of the Thesaurus, with a second printing in 2006. This reproduction is taken from a rare, hand-colored original. The introduction supplies background information about the fascinating tradition to which Seba's curiosities belongedAlbertus Seba's Cabinet of Natural Curiosities remains one of the most prized natural history books of all time.

There are 15 reptiles that have a common name, synonym, or epithet that are based on Seba's name: Chironius fuscus (LINNAEUS, 1758); Eutropis carinata (SCHNEIDER, 1801); Eutropis multifasciata (KUHL, 1820); Laudakia stellio (LINNAEUS, 1758); Melanochelys trijuga (SCHWEIGGER, 1812); Ninia atrata (HALLOWELL, 1845); Ninia maculata (PETERS, 1861); Ninia sebae (DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL, 1854); Oplurus cuvieri GRAY, 1831; Oxyrhopus petola (LINNAEUS, 1758); Phalotris sansebastiani JANSEN & KÖHLER, 2008; Podarcis hispanicus (STEINDACHNER, 1870); Python natalensis SMITH, 1840; Python sebae (GMELIN, 1789); and Tupinambis rufescens (GÜNTHER, 1871).

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