Natural History

Print from the Iconographia Zoologica

This collection domain relates to the history of botany and zoology. A large part of the natural history collections originated (and is still housed) in the Artis Library, a monumental building on Plantage Middenlaan, that was built in 1868 and designed by the architect J.B. Salm. The library of the Koninklijk Zoölogisch Genootschap Natura Artis Magistra (Royal Zoological Association Natura Artis Magistra, which has been managed by the University of Amsterdam since 1939, was later expanded with the libraries of the Zoölogisch Museum Amsterdam (Zoological Museum of Amsterdam) and the Amsterdam Hortus Botanicus.

In 2005, a division was made between the modern research library and the historical library; the former was moved to the Watergraafsmeer site, while the management of the latter was assigned to the Special Collections. The collections contain 20,000 books, 3,000 manuscripts, 80,000 zoological prints and several dozen archives and collections created by Amsterdam botanists and zoologists.


At a national level, the natural history collection is consulted for general research relating to cultural history, the history of science, the history of art and the history of the book. Works are regularly published that have been researched either partly or entirely in the Artis Library. Notably, the collection is frequently used by visual artists who are inspired by the beautifully illustrated works in the Library. The superbly illustrated works in the natural history collections are highly suitable for exhibitions. The collection, with its historic setting, has a tremendous appeal to the general public.

After the renovation (due to start in autumn 2013), all the natural history collections will be housed in the Artis Library. This will result in a world-class natural history study centre.

Collection profile

  • Historical botany and zoology
  • Artis and the Hortus Botanicus
  • Carolus Linnaeus, Charles Darwin, Georges-Louis Leclerc and Comte de Buffon
  • Modern natural science
  • Iconographia Zoologica (zoological prints)

Important collections


  • Drawings of animals, collected by Felix Platter, 16th century, volume 1 and volume 2. Hs. III C 22–23 (Gessner/Platter albums).
  • Afteekeningen van verscheyden, vreemde gewassen in de Medicyn-hoff der stadt Amsteldam. Amsterdam, 1686–1709. Nine volumes. Hs. VI G 1–9 (Moninckx Atlas).
  • Maria Sibylla Merian, Over de voortteeling en wonderbaerlyke veranderingen der Surinaamsche insecten. Amsterdam, 1719. AB Legkast 019.01.

  • Mark Catesby, The natural history of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands, 2 volumes. London, 1731–1747. AB Legkast 081.
  • Comte de Buffon, Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière, 31 volumes. Paris, 1749–1789. AB 031:32–34, 032:01–28.
  • P.R. Redouté, Les liliacées. Paris, 1802–1816. OL 06-6–13.
  • P.R. Redouté, Les roses. Paris, 1817–1824. OL 06-1-3.
  • John Gould, The birds of Australia, 7 volumes and supplement. London, 1848–1868. AB Legkast 090.01–07 and 090A.

Published by  Special Collections UvA

22 August 2014